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When kids are just learning to talk, they sometimes make grammatical mistakes:

The turtle comed home with me.

I think my brother eated the cookie.

Even though each sentence is wrong, when a youngster says it, it's kind of cute. It's also normal.

When kids are learning to speak, they grasp certain rules, and irregular verbs throw them off. A child learns that the past tense of "walk" is "walked." So it seems natural that the past tense of "drive" should be "drived" or of "run" should be "runned" or of "teach" should be "teached."

He may say:

Karen drived the firetruck.

I runned away from the dog.

I teached Grandma to use the DVD player.

Some kids make up their own verbs. In one study, a child used "speeched." Another used "broomed." Those make sense.

Irregular plurals cause the same confusion. If it's "one foot," why isn't it "two foots"? Comparative adjectives do the same. If it's "good," why isn't it "gooder"?

Using such incorrect words is called overregularization. That's a long word for the concept meaning that children learn a rule, then carry it from words that follow the rules over to words that don't. It's clever in its own way.


A good way to shave words from your writing is to remove excessive references to yourself. If you're providing information, giving a speech or writing a term paper, your part is obvious. You don't need to keep reminding people that you're there.

Avoid starting with these phrases:

I learned at a young age ...

I have always believed ...

It has always been my way to ...

For as long as I can remember ...

Other phrases often are used as unneeded transitions:

It didn't take me long to notice that ...

Before I knew it ...

I suddenly realized ...

People often ask me ...

I thought about it for a long time and finally decided to ...

And endings need not include:

I want you to understand what I learned from ...

In my opinion ...

I have concluded that ...

No need to say, "look at me!" Let the subject be the point.


Thomas Jefferson's words on words: "The most valuable of all talents is never using two words when one will do."


Requests for grammar topics come in waves. Over the past weeks, a few people have asked for a reminder on the difference between "bring" and "take."

"Bring" means to move an item from elsewhere to where you are now.

All we have in the house is beer. Could you bring some wine when you come to dinner?

"Take" means to go elsewhere with an item.

We bought seven pizzas for the party and ate only three. Please take one home with you.

This distinction often gives me trouble, so I have come up with a goofy way to remember the difference. I think of the phrases "bring home the bacon" and "take the money and run."

That helps more when I'm writing and have time to think about it. It works less well when I'm speaking.


I just learned that the fear of clowns is called "coulrophobia."

The word is about 30 years old, but, as I understand it, the fear has been around for a while, probably for as long as clowns have existed.

It's related to the Greek word for one who walks on stilts, "kolobathristes." That's a stretch, but that's what some powerful person decided.

The word hasn't made its way into the American Heritage Dictionary or Merriam-Webster, but it's listed on the Oxford Dictionaries website.

Sources: Harvard University, National Institutes of Health, American Heritage Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Woe is I by Patricia T. O'Conner, World Wide Words

ActiveStyle on 03/12/2018

Print Headline: Irregular verbiage is vexing

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