Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Did You Drop Something? A "D" Perhaps?


For me, drop D doesn’t just refer to a death-metal guitar tuning scheme. It refers to adjectival phrases containing simple past verb forms, which over time have dropped the “d” or “ed” that was formerly at their end. Ironically,  drop D also serves as an example of it. Drop D tuning really ought to be expressed as dropped D tuning, but the accepted nomenclature is drop D. Two others that come to mind are roast beef and ice cream.

It’s not roast beef at all now is it? It’s roasted beef. Likewise, ice cream is iced cream. Both are so common that one never hears them described correctly. Let me be clear: I do not advocate dredging up the original expression into some hipster second lifetime either. On the contrary: if you were to utter roasted beef or iced cream now, it would in my view be conspicuously arcane and didactic.

Another such instance of adjectival simple past abuse can be seen emblazoned in foot-tall capital black letters against a bright yellow background, strapped to the rear of lumber trucks and heavy machinery transport vehicles, speeding down America’s highways and warning motorists wishing to pass that they should exercise particular caution when doing so. I speak of course of “Oversize Load.”

It is very common to use the simple past form of a verb in an adjectival way, and if you were to follow those common conventions, the signs would read “Oversized Load.” Most common expressions that use the simple past form of a verb as an adjective keep the “d” or “ed.” Freddie Fender got it right twice in his lost love lament,  “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights,” as do “fitted sheet,” “pickled herring” and “canned ham.”

Keep an eye out for simple past verbs used as adjectives that over time have dropped the “d” or “ed.” They are fun to find if, like me, this sort of thing entertains you.