1. SeverinR
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    SeverinR Contributing Member

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    Swum, really?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by SeverinR, Aug 17, 2011.

    I was reading last night and the author wrote "swum".
    I thought maybe it was a slang word or unique to a England or Australia.

    Looked it up and it's past participle of swim.

    I swam,
    I have swum?

    If I write "I have swam" would the average person know it is not correct?

    Even more importantly would a publisher reviewing this in a work hold it against the work?
     
  2. BFGuru
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    BFGuru Active Member

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    I have swam is definitely not correct. But I find myself gritting my teeth at swimmed. And words like "singed". Really? It looks like you burnt your hair, not finished an aria.
     
  3. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well yeah, a publisher worth his (or her) salt would know.
     
  4. CH878
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    CH878 Active Member

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    'I swam for ages' is correct
    'I have swum for ages' is also correct.

    To answer your question, 'I have swam' is incorrect, so yes, people will know, and for that reason a publisher will probably doubt your grasp of grammar, which isn't a good thing.
     
  5. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    I doubt I can speak for the average person, but I know that "I have swam" is non-standard, just as much as "I have began".
     
  6. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    Personally, I think "swum" and "swam" sound equally stupid, and I choose to hold it against you that you think my excellent country (Australia) would stoop to such a low. Our English is better than that.

    That said, "swam" is the one that sounds less stupid and looks less, and therefore will be the one I continue to use every now and then.
     
  7. AfterBroadway
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    AfterBroadway Senior Member

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    Haven't you guys ever swummed?
    Jesus.
     
    1 person likes this.
  8. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    ^
    No, only swammed.
     
  9. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    And in dialog you can get away with it. Good luck getting it past an editor if it's in dialog, though.

    Edit: I meant "Good luck getting it past an editor if it's in narrative, though." Must...get...new...brain...
     
  10. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    But in dialog is exactly where you have the most latitude with language. The narrator had better be on top of his/her grammar but the characters? Well, they may or may not be and that's a matter of author's intent and not within the purview of an editor. An editor may question it but, if the grammatical faux pas is what an author wanted, then that's what the author intended in creating the character.
     
  11. DBock
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    DBock Member

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    ::blank stare:: My brain hurts.
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    And so would a writer worth his or her salt.
     
  13. Raging_Ty
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    Raging_Ty Member

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    I'm currently reading a novel by Dean Koontz called From the Corner of His Eye and in it he used the word "Swum" and to be completely honest it threw me off for a minute because I hadn't ever heard the word "swum" in place of "swam"
     
  14. art
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    art Contributing Member Contributor

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    To be fair to the old boy, who's on the ball with these things, he certainly meant to say

    a mere slip then. More worrying is his capitulation to Uncle Sam....
     
  15. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thanks -- yes, I did.
    I work in software. If I don't allow Uncle Sam some concessions it won't compile.
     
  16. James Scarborough
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    James Scarborough Member

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    Swum is the correct past participle of swim, and is the only correct past participle. However, it's fallen into general disuse and sounds strange to most people. I'd avoid using it if possible.

    For example, instead of writing "he had already swum ten laps", you could write "he had already finished swimming ten laps". In general, try to avoid awkward-sounding constructions even if they are grammatically correct. Usually, you can find a way to re-write them to avoid the problem.
     
  17. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not sure about most people, though clearly some. The issue of what level of language to use is always tricky, but I'd be more uncomfortable about a clunky rephrasing to get rid of "swum" than I would be about "swum" -- probably because it sounds perfectly normal to me. Probably the best thing to do is to write within one's own normal vocabulary unless one is specifically targeting a market with a more restricted vocabulary.
     
  18. SeverinR
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    SeverinR Contributing Member

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    I will probably do that, but truly I would not think of the obscure rule and word.

    Swum just ain't right.:p

    I do appologize to England and Austalia, but some of our(US included) slang words are laughable.:D
     
  19. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i would hope so!

    i think you meant 'editor' and if s/he was even a half-decent one, it would definitely be held against the writer [not the work, unless it wrote itself]...
     
  20. Radrook
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    The general rule to follow when choosing between "swam" and "swum" is to use "Swum" whenever the word "have" or "had" is involved.

    We have swum in that lake.
    We had swum in that river.
    We will have swum in that river.

    Contrast without the "had" or "has":

    He swam in that lake.
    He swam in the river.
    He will swim in the river.



    BTW

    That's like saying:

    "Did you ran the race?" Instead of: "Did you run the race?"

    or

    "Did you swam in that lake?" for "Did you swim in that lake?

    or

    "Did he did it?" for "Did he do it?"


    or

    "Where did he went?" for "Where did he go?"

    I see and hear people writing and speaking like that all the time. At first I thought they were trying to establish their own grammar rules. But then I realized that was the way they actually talked.



    I agree that grammatical errors can be used as part of characterization.
     
  21. SeverinR
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    SeverinR Contributing Member

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    Unofficial results;
    Most people that comment on Facebook and at work, never heard of swum, let alone know when to use it is a swentence:D. (The one exception was a High school teacher.)
    Most people thought it was a made up word.

    How does one learn these obscure words and their uses without taking years and years of classes?
     
  22. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Read. Good stuff. A lot.

    I'm not convinced that "swum" is all that obscure, though. A quick corpus search shows that it is used with about the same frequency as "gerbil". Is "gerbil" an obscure word?
     
  23. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    Weighing in for the Brits, that's just, like, a word. It cracks me up everyone's so confused about it :D

    On the other hand: Try saying some of the example sentences in an extremely over the top English accent... It honestly doesn't sound that odd. Really. :p "Yeah I've swum the Channel, mate. Blimey it was cold..."

    (the trick is not to spend more than a billisecond on any of the vowels, so the long "u" in swum I'm imagining is putting people off doesn't get in the way of understanding)
     
  24. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    clearly not 'everyone's so confused' mate! ;-)
     
  25. SeverinR
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    SeverinR Contributing Member

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    Most people know what a gerbil is, even though they might not think of it or mention it in passing conversations.
    Swum is a word used for one very rare structured sentence. That the average person would not use.

    I do feel better "word checker" did highlight the offending word when I wrote it wrong. So even I don't catch it, word will.

    But it goes to prove, the english language is very hard to learn and master because of things like this.
     

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