scott morrison

Prime Minister Scott Morrison delivering his victory speech in Sydney, Australia, on Saturday. Credit Tracey Nearmy/Getty Images.

Rived by years of infighting….

(Editorial Board, “An Electoral Brush Fire in Australia,” NYTimes, 5-20-19)

Past participles in this opinion piece flutter the heart of a nerdy grammaticist.

I rarely read or use the verb “(to) rive,” which I think of as “(to) split.” A cautious Google dip confirms that meaning. The usage example also confirms my predisposition toward “riven” as the past participle: “the party was riven by disagreements over Europe.” (Google)

Things change. I’m happy to live with “rived.” I’m sure it has passed muster with the style czar or czarina at the NYTimes. One wonders if “given” will ever give way to “gived.” Or has it already, and I missed the memo? I think we Yanks are winked at by the Brits for hanging on to “gotten” where they’ve moved on to “got.” Archaisms are stubborn in the colonies.

But there’s more in the way of participles to enjoy here:

… Climate wars have… rent electorates into bitterly opposed camps…

There it is: “rent,” past participle of “(to) rend” meaning “(to) tear.” Indeed, Google gives “rent” as a synonym of “riven” (or “rived”). Splitting and tearing seems to be on the minds of the Times editors today.

Following “rived,” by the way, we would expect “rended” and “teared” instead of “rent” and “torn.” Consistency, however, is not the hobgoblin of language, as it is of small minds.

To end, there’s a folksy Aussie slogan in this column that’s pure fun:

A fair go for those who have a go…. [Prime Minister Scott Morrison]

I don’t know exactly what the slogan means — slogans rarely mean anything anyway — but to an American polluted by a lifetime of advertising it’s impossible not to think of an ad campaign in which cute cartoon bears extol the delights of using a certain brand of toilet paper for personal hygiene:

“Everyone goes. Why not enjoy the go?”

Everyone indeed. We can safely say that no electorate is rived or rent over this particular “going.”

(c) 2019 JMN

About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day. I like to read and memorize poetry.
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