These are sentences my poor senses have been assaulted by in the past few weeks:
“I've also went over all of your current records.” –An insurance person
“I should’ve went with you!” – A good friend, well-educated, well-traveled, well-read
“I shouldn’t’ve ate so much cake!” – A college student
Really? I’ve went over, I should’ve went, I shouldn’t’ve ate?? I just can’t get over it. The past participle is fading away. Dying right before our eyes.
I’ve been railing against this for years. It just makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. A good friend of mine, an esteemed linguist, says I shouldn’t get my panties all in a bunch. Languages change, she says. And she knows. I mean, she studied with Noam Chomsky at MIT, for goodness sakes.
At some unspecified time, DailyWritingTips.com wrote a great post on the phenomenon of the disappearance of some of our most common past participles – “Gone, Taken, Written, Eaten, and Come.” Here are some examples this author cited:
I Should Have Went Samurai On Them, Or At Least Ninja – blog headline
Lisa Rinna might have went too far – celebrity blog
Still wished we would have went with Dorsey? – sports blog
WE HAVE WENT OUT OF BUSINESS – commercial site
Having discussed this blog post with a dear friend, I am leery of even using the term “past participle.” She says no one knows what that is anymore. What?!!? My gramminatrix self has definitely got my panties all in a bunch now!
Okay, calm down, Monique. I am no longer surprised when I witness this kind of grammatical misconduct from sports figures like LeBron James who tweeted in November 2013: “Man I should have went to this game. It's crazy in Doak Campbell!!”
But I am definitely surprised when it comes up in an academic setting. As you may know, my career has been spent largely in higher education, at Princeton, Harvard, Columbia, and now The New School. I know, la di da.
So, I follow industry trends by reading as much as I can. The real impetus for this blog post is something I came across a week or two ago on website of Academic Impressions, a company that helps colleges and universities meet the many challenges of the day. The article is entitled Student Affairs: Trends to Watch in 2017-19. One of the esteemed interviewees says: “…having just went through one of the biggest culture-war periods in American History (2017-2019 predicted), we will be a leading voice in training multiple departments on campus, and our broader communities, from our deep strength and ability, about inclusivity of all identities, harmony, and social justice.” Really? “Having just went through….” And these are the people who are going to be a leading voice? Skin crawling. Hair standing on end. Can’t relax, my Noam Chomsky-educated buddy. I. Just. Can’t.
There’s a voice of reason in Katherine Barber who offers a great history of “should have went,” which I really appreciate. She says that “went” was the past tense of “went” and “goed” was the past tense of “go,” and over time they intertwined to this unusual form that we learned was correct: I go, I went, I have gone. When you look at it that way, it doesn’t seem so horrible.
She does say that using “should have went” is stigmatized. But she wrote that 5 years ago. Now, I wonder. If all of these highly educated, well-traveled, well-read, and intelligent people are accepting it and using it, maybe I need to get over it after all. Yes, that’s probably right. I will stop carrying the torch for these past participles. My mourning period is over. Thank you for listening.
For many years, as a dean at three Ivy League colleges and now as an AVP at a university with an extraordinary mission, I have had a front row seat to the obstacles to success that college students and their parents confront every year. Even at so-called elite, highly selective colleges such as Princeton, Harvard, and Columbia, where I spent some of my career, students struggle on a daily basis to remain healthy, happy, grounded, and to stay in school. I am dedicated to helping them.