WORDSWORDSWORDS#4 (Short-Lived/Flied Out)

My own children scoffed when I said about something ephemeral that it was

"short-lived", pronouncing "lived" to rhyme with "jived". I might just as well as

have had three heads. "I have never heard it pronounced that way", said one.

Another just shook her head as if to say, "It's dad again".

But I was not wrong, even if I agree that you won't hear the phrase pronounced

that way very often (I did hear someone on TV say it this way recently though).

Pronouncing "lived" as if it were in the sentence "Doug lived in a white house"

makes no sense to me. We aren't using past tense when we say something is "short-lived".

We are saying the thing has a short life. The word is derived from the noun-"life"-

rather than the verb "to live". I don't say people are wrong if they pronounce

lived" as if it were the past tense. I just don't think people should view my way as

incorrect. You might consider how you would pronounce the phrase if you said

something that lasted a long time was "long-lived".

Here is the take of the American Heritage Dictionary's Usage Panel:

Here is a brief commentary about my pronunciation to show that it has been correct for a while:

Evidence for the long I pronunciation is in Gilbert & Sullivan's Pirates of Penzance:

To gain a brief advantage you've contrived, But your proud triumph will not be long-lived

Since, as far as I know contrived was never pronounced with a short I. It was written over a hundred years ago and in song, but Gilbert was a clever rhymer and most of his work sounds like (fairly) normal speech apart from the invented words (like piratical).

Anyway, language constantly changes, and there won't be many of us saying "short-lived" my way much

longer....unless....you want to join me!

Those who know me know that I have certain pet peeves, and one of the most vexing to me is a baseball

play-by-play announcer who will say something like: "In his last at-bat, Aaron Judge flew out to left-center field".

It makes it sound as if the big guy sprouted wings and flapped his way out to that distant pasture near the


"Flew" is the past tense of "fly", but once again, in baseball we are not looking to describe what happened when someone took flight; we are looking to describe what happened last time up when someone hit a fly out (a type of out). For well over a century, broadcasters said someone--from Ty Cobb to Aaron Judge--"flied out" But today, it is

more and more common to hear lazy, ignorant broadcasters say "He flew out to Hicks in the third".

Let's see what the Grammarians (the Grammar Police to you) have to say:

“Although the past tense of this verb is sometimes stated as flew out, it is now customary to say or write ‘flied out.’ ” Why? The probable explanation goes to the very structure of the language, specifically the two kinds of verbs we have in English.

There are regular verbs with modern “ed” endings in the past tense and past participle, like “walked,” “laughed,” “jumped,” “helped,” and so on. And there are irregular verbs with older, Anglo-Saxon endings, like “drove/driven”; “wrote/written”; “sang/sung”; “rose/risen,” and of course “flew/flown.” We have only about 200 of the older verbs left. As we form new ones or give new meanings to oldsters, we tend to give them modern “ed” endings in the past tense. This is particularly true when we make a new verb out of a noun, even if that noun is related to an earlier verb with an irregular ending.

And the verb phrase “fly out” is derived not from the old verb “fly” but from the noun “fly,” a baseball term (for “fly ball”) that originated in 1860. So even though the sports noun is based on the old irregular verb “fly,” the new verb arising from the noun is given a modern “ed” ending.

Here are some other examples of this principle at work:

The past tense of “stand” is “stood.” But the verb “grandstand,” formed from the noun “grandstand” (1834), has the past “grandstanded.” The past of “grind” is “ground.” But if a stripper performs a “bump and grind” (a relatively new term for an old dance), we say she “bumped and grinded.” The past tense of “light” can be “lit” or “lighted.” But we use the modern “ed” ending to say someone “moonlighted” as a plumber.

The usual past of the verb “cost” is “cost.” But we say an accountant “costed” (that is determined) the company’s proposed project. The past tense of “spin” is “spun.” But the past of “spin” in its newer political sense is a work in progress. Some people say a politician “spun” the incident while others say he “spinned” it. May the best word win! The verb “snowblow” hasn’t yet made it into standard dictionaries, but it’s alive and well in snow country … with a modern past tense. We should know. We “snowblowed” our way through many a winter in rural New England.

But why not just respect history? However, The Dickson Baseball Dictionary (3d ed.), by Paul Dickson, cites a report from the Boston Globe on June 13, 1872, about a game between the Boston Red Stockings and the Philadelphia Athletics: “Cuthbert flied out to Harry Wright.”

Here are some more contemporary citations from the website The Grammarist:

Trailing the Cleveland Indians by two runs in the ninth inning, Derrek Lee flied out on closer Chris Perez’s first pitch. [Washington Post]

Daniel Descalso sacrificed Molina to third, but pinch-hitter John Jay struck out and Theriot flied to right to end the inning. [Vancouver Sun]

After Miguel Tejada flied out to right, Kershaw walked his first batter of the game, rookie Brandon Belt. [Los Angeles Times]

Hanigan drew a walk to load the bases for Drew Stubbs, who flied out harmlessly to center field to end the game. [Canada.com]

Case closed. Enjoy the game.

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