Discussions about eggcorns and related topics
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Chris -- 2011-03-08
Since Honey and I are somewhat nomadic, we maintain our long-distance relationships mostly via email. I noticed over the years many of our otherwise literate friends often misuse the verb “use” in reference to a habit or custom rather than the adjective, “used.” Ie: “I use to play volleyball, but I can’t risk injury” instead of “I used to play volleyball, but I can’t risk injury.”
Last edited by flicker (2006-04-14 15:46:05)
Whether or not this counts as an eggcorn, I cannot say, but it reminds me of a pet peeve of mine.
It is, I suppose, the reverse problem. A lot of people (frequency illusion) seem to use phrases like “I didn’t used to play the banjo”, while they would never write something like “I did used to play the ukulele” (I think). It’s as though the negation interferes with the parsing of the compound verb (is the the proper term?).
Funny, googling™ it I find that “didn’t used to” gets more than double the ghits of “didn’t use to” – and in both cases the top results concern proper usage.
I’m curious to know if this sort of “over-conjugation” occurs with other modal verbs. Or in other situations in general.
It’s not surprising that the same people wouldn’t normally write “did used to play”—it’s the negative that requires the presence of “did” in the past tense. But you’re right—that’s one weird-looking phrase once you start thinking about it. (I use it in speech, too.) People using “I didn’t used to play” seem to be interpreting “used to play” as an infinitive phrase that can be treated like any other. A (perfectly grammatical) construction like “I didn’t have to play” might be supplying the template. So is “didn’t used to” ungrammatical?