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Past Tense Dies?

Past Tense Dies?

Past Tense Dies?

(OP)
Has anyone else noticed that the "art" (?) of describing something in the past tense seems to have died? I hear things that occurred in the past being described as a present tense narrative all the time. Descriptions like this are very common...

Quote:

Man, you wouldn't believe what happened! It's last Sunday morning, I'm walking down the street. All of a sudden I hear this car backfire behind me...

...instead of this...

Quote:

Man, you wouldn't believe what happened! Last Sunday morning I was walking down the street, when all of a sudden, I heard a car backfire behind me...

I hear things like this all the time on the TV News...

Quote:

The suspect walks into the convenience store and shoots at the cashier. The cashier runs into the back room where he gets a mop...

To me it should be...

Quote:

The suspect walked into the convenience store and shot at the cashier. The cashier ran into the back room where he got a mop...

It really stands out to me on my local morning news because everyone does it except for one reporter. She actually describes things that happened in the past in the past tense. I'm wondering if the reporters have individual writers, or maybe they write their own copy. It has to be something like that because it is obvious that she's describing past events differently than the rest of the news team. At least to me.

Has anyone else noticed this? Am I making something out of nothing?

RE: Past Tense Dies?

I noticed the same thing here is Australia just recently, & find it quite irritating.

RE: Past Tense Dies?

@Larena - don't you mean you found it quite irritating?

Aspiring to mediocrity since 1957

RE: Past Tense Dies?


My past tense were a teepee and a wigwam. I'm like intense! The tension is like two tents.

Skip,

glassesJust traded in my OLD subtlety...
for a NUance!tongue

RE: Past Tense Dies?

I suspect Larina found it irritating when she first heard it, still finds it irritating now & will continue to find it irritating for the foreseeable future.

A Maintenance contract is essential, not a Luxury.
Do things on the cheap & it will cost you dear

RE: Past Tense Dies?

(OP)

Quote (Larena)

I noticed the same thing here in Australia just recently, & find it quite irritating.

Irritating? An understatement! bigsmile

It gets even worse when the News show talking-head is interviewing someone, and it goes like this...

Quote (Air Headed American)

So, I'm like driving my car and I park it. This guys runs up and he's all like "GAAA!" and I'm all like "Wha?!?" And he's all like "No". And I'm all like "Whatever".

I've actually seen eye witness interviews like that on major broadcast TV News. If I was the news director, I wouldn't air it. Maybe say that there were no credible witnesses to the event.

Sigh! (eyes rolling)

RE: Past Tense Dies?

Yup, we are now Way beyond relaxed. I'd say downright sloppy.

A while back (40+ years?) Edwin Newman wrote a book titled "Strictly Speaking" that addresses many of these same concerns. From a review:

"Admiring colleagues have called Edwin Newman an antipollutant, sensibly sardonic, a rare bird, a genial intellect, a man nobody is going to fool anywhere, anytime, anyway. Here, in his first book, these qualities are joined. Newman focuses on the sorry state of the English language as a reflection of the sorry state of the society. He skewers stereotypes, clichés, errors, and jargon used by weather forecasters, presidents, vice-presidents, sportscasters, diplomats, senators, pollsters, convention nominators, corporation executives, newsmen, advertisers, Watergate defendants, social scientists, college presidents, foreign correspondents, youth. If words are devalued, he argues, so are ideas and so are human beings. Drawing upon his wealth of experience in newspapers, radio, and television, Newman contends with headwind components, game plans, bottom lines, out of sight, confidence factors, unsightly bulges, nitty gritty, and such. He deflates the pompous, the grandiose, the stilted, and the hollow. He rejoices in language that is lucid, graceful, direct, civilized. The reader rejoices with him."

I suspect that it is now a free/cheap eBook, but i've not verified this.

RE: Past Tense Dies?

Yup,IPGuru! I found it irritating the first time I hear this, I am finding it irritating right now as I think of it, and I expect I will find it irritating next time it occurs.

Oh, and I can't find an emoticon that adequately represents "mildly irritated".

RE: Past Tense Dies?

(OP)
This one looks "mildly irritated".

poke

RE: Past Tense Dies?

The correct usage of first person plural past continuous has never existed in some parts of the U.S. West and South:

Quote:

We was going to the store when our car had a flat.

santaMufasa
(aka Dave of Sandy, Utah, USA)
“People may forget what you say, but they will never forget how you made them feel."

RE: Past Tense Dies?

Wouldn't that be 'gotten' a flat? Because 'gotten' seems to be a replacement for so many words. dazed

Today's grammatical rant at the news, for me at least, is the Oscar Pistorius trial report, with;

"almost exactly a month" AAAARRGGGGHHH!!!!! mad

"It cannot be 'almost' AND 'exactly'! It's one OR the other you Philistine clods"!!!!

Chris.

Indifference will be the downfall of mankind, but who cares?
Time flies like an arrow, however, fruit flies like a banana.
Webmaster Forum

RE: Past Tense Dies?

Quote (Chris)

"It cannot be 'almost' AND 'exactly'! It's one OR the other you Philistine clods"!!!!

Yes, that is as offensive to my ears as are "very unique" and "different than". If you can have something that is "very unique" it implies that something can be "slightly unique"...How can that happen anyway?

Next, "than" is a comparison, in degree, of two or more items. If one insists on using "different than", then they should say that one item is "differenter than" another item. If that doesn't sound correct, then go back to the correct term, "different from".

santaMufasa
(aka Dave of Sandy, Utah, USA)
“People may forget what you say, but they will never forget how you made them feel."

RE: Past Tense Dies?

@Santa, re: Very unique.

I'm of two minds on this one. Although I agree with you at one level I find myself debating this subject with myself quite often.

The latest debate with myself involves art and its appreciation. Although each and every painting by Van Gogh is unique in its own special way, Starry Night has a special uniqueness that sets it apart for me. Some might say that is is more unique, not me, but I don't think I'd argue the point either as I understand what they mean.

**********************************************
What's most important is that you realise ... There is no spoon.

RE: Past Tense Dies?

Quote (kwb)

Starry Night has a special uniqueness that sets it apart for me.

Very well said...and you have stated it in such a way that it is both grammatically correct, and it precisely conveys its unusual distinction for you.

santaMufasa
(aka Dave of Sandy, Utah, USA)
“People may forget what you say, but they will never forget how you made them feel."

RE: Past Tense Dies?

"Very unique" as a statement depends on the context it is used in. As above, a style of painting can be 'very unique' because it is readily indentified as being by that particular individual.
i.e. "L.S. Lowry had a very unique style of representing people in his work"

Chris.

Indifference will be the downfall of mankind, but who cares?
Time flies like an arrow, however, fruit flies like a banana.
Webmaster Forum

RE: Past Tense Dies?

There is a big difference between 'very unique' and 'special uniqueness'. 'Very' is an intensifier. 'Unique' is an adjective that doesn't have degrees that may be varied or intensified. It's either unique or it's not (I'd like to say it's a binary adjective, but unfortunately, binary adjective means something else). In any event, 'very unique' is a non-sequitor.

Unlike 'very', 'special' is not an intensifier. 'Special' is an adjective being applied to the noun 'uniqueness'. It's not varying or in any way altering the fact of uniquenss, but rather, it's recognizing some special quality to the uniquess that is meaningful. There is nothing wrong with that.

Also, there is nothing wrong with a very special uniquess either. The intensifer 'very' is modifying the adjective 'special', while 'special' is describing a quality about the noun 'uniqueness'. But note, it's the 'special' that being intensified by 'very', not the uniqueness because intensifiers apply to adjectives.

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RE: Past Tense Dies?

Quote (CajunCenturion )

'Unique' is an adjective that doesn't have degrees that may be varied or intensified. It's either unique or it's not (I'd like to say it's a binary adjective, but unfortunately, binary adjective means something else). In any event, 'very unique' is a non-sequitor.

Why? I will agree that your "binary" view of the word matches the original definition dating back hundreds of years, but it would seem that the definition has morphed over a century ago to also include "unusual" or "uncommon".

RE: Past Tense Dies?

Actually, the correct term is 'absolute adjective' - an adjective that cannot take a comparative or superlative, nor is subject to intensification.

--------------
Good Luck
To get the most from your Tek-Tips experience, please read
FAQ181-2886: How can I maximize my chances of getting an answer?
Wise men speak because they have something to say, fools because they have to say something. - Plato

RE: Past Tense Dies?

Quote:

We was going to the store when our car had a flat.

Quote (ChrisHurst)

Wouldn't that be 'gotten' a flat? Because 'gotten' seems to be a replacement for so many words.

Here in the south (LA - Lower Alabama) i have actually heard,

Quote (a local)

We was going to the store when our car got a flat . . .

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