H.L. Mencken (18801956). The American Language. 1921.
analogy. The form is suggested by steered, feared and cheered, but its main advantage lies in the fact that it gets rid of a vowel change, always an impediment to easy speech. Here, as in the contrary direction, one barbarism breeds another. Thus taken, as the preterite of to take, has undoubtedly helped to make preterites of two other perfects, shaken and forsaken.
But in the presence of two exactly contrary tendencies, the one in accordance with the general movement of the language since the Norman Conquest and the other opposed to it, it is unsafe, of course, to attempt any very positive generalizations. All one may exhibit with safety is a general habit of treating the verb conveniently. Now and then, disregarding grammatical tendencies, it is possible to discern what appear to be logical causes for verb phenomena. That lit is preferred to lighted and hung to hanged is probably the result of an aversion to fine distinctions, and perhaps, more fundamentally, to the passive. Again, the use of found as the preterite of to fine is obviously due to an ignorant confusion of fine and find, due to the wearing off of -d in find, and that of lit as the preterite of to alight to a confusion of alight and light. Yet again, the use of tread as its own preterite in place of trod is probably the consequence of a vague feeling that a verb ending with d is already of preterite form. Shed exhibits the same process. Both are given a logical standing by such preterites as bled, fed, led, read, dead and spread. But here, once more, it is hazardous to lay down laws, for shredded, headed, dreaded, threaded and breaded at once come to mind. In other cases it is still more difficult to account for preterites in common use. In my first edition I called attention to the cases of drug, clum and friz. On this point, a correspondent has since sent me the following interesting observations:
True enough, these forms may not adhere closely to the rules of umlaut; but are they not born of the spirit of umlaut which pervades the English verb? Thus: the most obvious form of strong verb is