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TWTS: We won't chide you for your past participle of "chide"

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Frequent listeners of That's What We Say know how we much we love to talk about the constant phenomenon of words changing in meaning and use. This week we tackle three examples, including a question about the past participle of "chide."

This question came to Professor Anne Curzan at a party, because that's the kind of thing that happens to you at parties when people find out you study the history of English.

One of the guests told Curzan about a time early in his life when he was abroad and someone corrected his past participle of "chide" which was "chided." He was told the correct form was "chidden."

This is one of those situations when no one is actually wrong. When it comes to "chide," most standard dictionaries list three possible past participles: "chided," "chid," and "chidden."

The verb "chide" goes back to Old English. It was a weak verb, or what we would think of as a regular verb today. The past tense was "chid," and the past participle was either "chided" or "chid."

During the Renaissance, "chide" developed irregular forms alongside its regular forms, including "chidden." This was probably in analogy to "ride," which had "rode" as its past tense and "ridden" as its past participle.

You'll notice we've omitted the past tense of "chide" here. That's because it's a vulgar term in current English, and this is why we can't have nice things.

To hear our discussion on how the meanings of "insipid" and "to cut a check" have evolved over time, listen to the audio above.

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Rebecca Kruth is the host of Weekend Edition at Michigan Radio. She also co-hosts Michigan Radio’s weekly language podcast That’s What They Say with English professor Anne Curzan.
Anne Curzan is the Geneva Smitherman Collegiate Professor of English and an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor at the University of Michigan. She also holds faculty appointments in the Department of Linguistics and the School of Education.