AWOL Angs ’n’ Anks

So what are anks and angs? The last three letters of some of our most commonly used past-tense verbs: sank, drank, shrank, and stank, along with sang, rang, and sprang. All are having a tough time of it these days, and not just because of the 1989  box office hit Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. In 2012 the sentence “The boat sank, and a nearby jet skier sprang into action” is more likely to be voiced as “The boat sunk, and a nearby jet skier sprung into action.”

Need a ripped-from-the-headlines example? Try this one, from Cracked.com:

6 Reasons You Know You’ve Drank Too Much

The writers at Cracked are more concerned with making us laugh than tending to grammar – but the fact that one of the brainiest hosts of a cable TV talkathon (a Rhodes Scholar, no less) regularly says sunk when she means sank hardly bodes well for the future of -anks and -angs.

Normally it’s the past participles that take a beating, with the past participle of the infinitive to go pummeled nonstop. Quick refresher: You go to the shop right now (present tense), went to the shop yesterday (past tense), and would have gone to the shop yesterday if it hadn’t rained (the aforementioned past participle). But, in the third case, how often do we hear “I would have went,” even from straight-A students at highly-regarded colleges and universities?

The world won’t stop spinning if traditional conjugations of verbs fall by the wayside, but let us hope that such alterations – as inevitable as they are – won’t obstruct otherwise clear communication.

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