Horton Heared a Who!

What the slips of children tell us about language, history and the human mind

Kids say the darnedest things. "We holded the baby rabbits." "The alligator goed kerplunk." "Horton heared a Who!" These lapses, you might dimly recall, have something to do with irregular verbs. But please don't stop reading just yet. Children's errors are not just anecdotes for grandparents or reminders of long-forgotten grammar lessons. They're windows into the workings of language, history and the human mind.

Verbs in English come in two flavors. Regular verbs like walk and smell form the past tense by adding -ed: Today I walk, yesterday I walked. English has thousands of them, and new ones arise every day,...

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