Losing Your 'Ed

A Potted Summary

There are many phrases in English, in its myriad incarnations, of the form [verb]-ed [noun], for example "clotted cream". The meaning of the phrase in this construct is clear, they are [noun]s that have been [verb]-ed, and all is good. Other phrases have a similar form [property]-ed [noun], meaning [noun]s that have the property property, such as "horned viper".

The interesting thing about such phrases is how many of them vary across different dialects of English, and that they also seem to change over time. The curious thing is that one particular variation seems to be dominant. Some have changed into what might be considered [[eggcorns]], but others seem to have undergone this change so far back that they are now considered the standard form, and the -ed form would be considered deviant. This document is intended to investigate these forms, both ones that exist and don't exist, to find past changes and possibly predict future ones.

Note, I am not a linguist, or a philologist, I have merely had an amateur interest in the field for many decades, and have yet to see anyone delve deeply into what appears to be a language change that is happening right under our feet, albeit glacially.

The Thesis

In short, it seems that there has been a trend towards the dropping of -ed over time, or even skipping that stage entirely.

[verb]-ed [noun][verb] noun
US English seems to be ahead of English in this process. This trend is predictable, so perhaps predictive, and there is no reason to not expected it to continue over time.

The interesting thing about this change is that it seems to behave like an [[eggcorn]]. A simple meaningful two-word combination mutates into a form that sounds similar, but pedantically looking at it with the corrupted word in place, seems to make no sense, or even be gramatically unsound. You can't make lightning out of grease, so grease lightning is superficially completely meaningless, whereas greased lightning clearly refers to the application of a lubricant to something that's already known for its speed to imply something of extreme rapidity.

A Brief History Of -ed

The words ending -ed found in such constructs may have any number of curious properties that could help explain some of the fluidity of the form, both as written and as spoken.


This list isn't trying to be comprehensive, but it trying to capture all of the possibilities that i can think of. The rubric is as follows:

full stub stub can be syllable voiced next sound UK usage US usage transition
iced cream ice cream v/n n -t k- mostly ice always ice C20
baked goods bake goods v n -t g- never bake rarely bake C20 &emdash; never?

... way way way way way more stuff, which I will pull out of the dump below and expand on with classification...

Further Discussions

Apparently, I'm not alone, others have looked at the same topic:


Here's the original conversation that inspired us to create this page. To protect the innocent, I have called my interlocutor "Osku".

18:14 <FatPhil> fucked if I know
18:17 <Osku>    being spoiled with the school systems of soviet finland era's practices
                - book learning in british english, practical learning in usa tv - I
                thought it'd be "fuck if I knew".
18:24 <FatPhil> the trailing -ed is very often dropped in USian, and that often
                filters back to international English, and eventually English.
18:25 <FatPhil> The classic example would be "iced cream", being iced cream, and thus
                sensibly named. However, the US took over and we ended up with "ice
                cream" instead. Which makes no sense, as it's not a cream made of ice.
Day changed to 07 Nov 2020
Day changed to 08 Nov 2020
# At this point, I ask Anna for her input
12:03 <FatPhil> similar to "iced cream" is "iced tea". One that's in transition right
                now is "Sugar(ed) Almonds". One that shows the US/UK divide is
                "Skim(med) Milk", you'll never hear "skim" in the UK.
12:04 <FatPhil> One that's done the full transition, irreversibly now the sides have
                joined, is "popcorn".
12:07 <FatPhil> My brain wants to say "waxed paper", but my tongue refuses to do the
                extra flap and produces "wax paper".
12:10 <FatPhil> I found it hard to come up with examples, as I reject most
                americanisms, so these examples come from Anna.
12:17 <FatPhil> Another situation where the Americans have realised that the removal
                of the '-(e)d' makes no sense, and so have kept it in almost
                universally is "Greased Lightning". However, one of the biggest
                lyrics sites in the world thinks this song exists:
12:19 <FatPhil> I think we'll create a webpage about this, this was a very
                interesting language-related question, thank you!


Hash browns (1926) is short for hashed browned potatoes (1886), with the -ed omitted, as in mash potatoes --       https://www.etymonline.com/search?q=hash
      * breaded
      * ground
      * damned / darned (seen as "damn'" in US lit, 60s/70s?)
      * boxed set
      * fine tooth(ed) comb
      other forms, not -ed
      * "handgrenade" has potential, but surely not "rocket-propel grenade"
      * why not "banleader"
      * you'd better

Another hastily constructed page by Phil Carmody
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