Late Christmas 2009 Observation from Binghamton


So...this Christmas break I decided to visit a college friend currently living in Binghamton NY. But before I got there, I had to stop of at the local stitching supply store in nearby Endicott NY. As I was standing around looking at blackwork embroidery patterns, I heard something resembling the following sentence:

Has anyone did that pattern yet?

As you can see that irregular past participle done of Standard English was replaced by the past tense did (also an irregular). I was glad I was behind the speaker because I did a linguistic double take I hadn't done in years. My friend later confirmed that this was somewhat common, noting that it "drove her crazy."

A Google search of "have did" turned up a quote from hockey player Marc Savard who claimed "Sweet Caroline might have did it." Savard was born in Ottawa, which may make this feature a Great Lakes or U.S. Canadian border feature.

I will say that there is a tradition in English dialects of conflating the past tense and past participle. First, for most verbs, the past tense and past participle are formed with the same -ed ending. It's only a subset of irregular verbs like do (did/done), see (saw/seen), eat (ate/eaten), break (broke/broken) that maintain all 3 forms distinctly. Even some irregulars like buy (bought/bought) have merged the past and past participle.

There has also been a tendency to change a formerly irregular past participle to a regular one (e.g. molten > melted). In modern Standard English, speakers generally say "The ice has melted" (not *The ice has molten). The old past participle is now reserved only for hot melted substances that can burn you (e.g. molten lava, molten sugar)...However, most dialects have maintained the did/done distinction.

Interestingly, there are U.S. dialects which have lost the done/did distinction but kept done and lost did (see "books i done read") Americans will know that this is associated with non-Standard Southern and African-American forms and thus generally satirized. However, looking at this example I am realizing that done has not only replaced did but also have as the auxiliary of a perfective construction. In this case, all bets are off.

In any case the "have did" vs "done" changes show that dialects find multiple solutions to the same question - do we really have to both a past tense and a past participle form if they are only found in a few irregular verbs?