Irregular Verbs

So, I was having a discussion about verb tenses with a friend who is a copyeditor at a newspaper. The subject turned to us complaining about “pleaded” – the newspaperese past tense of “to plead”. Both of our NESIs say that it should be “pled”, by analogy with “to lead”/”led”.

That got us talking about “dove”, past tense of “to dive”, which I remember reading in Trask has taken over from “dived” in most American English dialects, by analogy with “to drive”/”drove”.

We started talking about other potentially silly irregular past tenses, and stumbled across an interesting case that I’m hoping someone can shed some light on. So, we have “to weave”/”weaved”. However, we do the analogy with “to leave”/”left”, and we get “weft” instead. Which is very, very interesting, because the noun forms, as in “weft and weave” (which I know I’ve read in a poem at some point), mean the two perpendicular thread directions on a loom.

So, the question is – does anyone know the order these words came about? It seems possible that the past tense was “weft”, and then on a loom you started to refer to the threads you had already weaved as “the weft”, and the thread you were just adding as “the weave”… and then for some reason the past tense got standardized.


Wasted Words” from Stand Back: The Anthology by The Allman Brothers Band

6 comments on “Irregular Verbs
  1. ursule says:

    It’s usually warp & weft or warp & woof. The OED doesn’t have an example of “weave” used as a synonym for warp.

    That said, the OED does derive both weft and woof from Old English words meaning “to weave”.

  2. q10 says:

    i’m not familiar with the expression ‘weave and weft’ the one i’m familiar with is ‘warp and weft’. you can find an explanation of the distinction between ‘warp’ and ‘weft’ here.

    ‘weave’ and ‘weft’ are both from OE ‘wefan’. ‘weft’ was probably so named because it was what you wove onto the warp. i think i was once told that voicing wasn’t contrastive for fricatives in Old English, so presumably the [v]/[f] thing was determined by the broader phonological context. maybe ‘weft’ was the past participle rather than the simple past tense?

  3. Nicolas Ward says:

    Oh, you’re right, it’s warp. I wonder why the other way was stuck in my head.

  4. sildra says:

    “Wove” gets more hits on Google than “weaved.” That doesn’t mean it’s better, necessarily (one link I found said they mean slightly different things anyway), but I was sufficiently startled by your “to weave”/”weaved” that I checked it.

  5. Nicolas Ward says:

    Hmm… I might be confusing myself here. I would definitely say “weaved in and out of traffic”, but maybe “wove a tapestry”/”tapestry has been woven”.

  6. sildra says:

    That matches the online dictionaries I found.

Nurd Up!