Saturday, May 19, 2007

World Wide Words - Brought vs Bought

A couple of weeks ago, I was proud to have my name mentioned in Michael Quinion's World Wide Words newsletter (which by the way is a great thing to read if you are into linguistics).

I had written in response to an earlier article from the UK suggesting that people have are starting to use "bought" instead of "brought", from my experience in New Zealand the opposite seems to be true. We tend to use "brought" when we actually mean "bought"

Here is what got published:
12 May
Bought and brought The item about this shift in last week’s issue brought forth several comments. Michael Shannon wrote, “As I’ve mentioned before, here in Australia the reverse is true. All too often you’ll hear someone say they have ‘brought’ something at the shops instead of ‘bought’. I’ve been hearing this ever since I arrived in Australia back in 1989 so I can only assume that it was prevalent before then. It’s the most irritating mispronunciation I’ve ever heard.” James Brunskill confirmed its popularity in that part of the world: “In New Zealand, we almost exclusively use ‘brought’ — ‘I brought a new car today’.” Perhaps the author Sebastian Faulks, the writer of the item, has a lot of antipodean friends?

Well 5 minutes of fame was all I got, with this published in the latest newsletter:
19 May
Bought versus brought Firm rebuttals arrived from New Zealand in response to the comment from a reader last week that brought for bought was commonplace in that country. Richard Bentley wrote: “The misuse is not uncommon, but to suggest that it’s used ‘almost exclusively’ is quite incorrect in my experience.” Russell McMahon wrote to agree, “Although we have friends and acquaintances from a wide cross section of backgrounds, it’s not something that I or my wife hear very often here.” On the other hand, Christine Shuttleworth wrote on Monday to say she had just received a message from friends in New Zealand: “Just wanted to let you know, that we brought a house across the road from us on Sunday”. She felt this must have been a major operation.

Of course I was exaggerating saying 'here in New Zealand we almost exclusively use brought', actually in my email I had qualified it a little by saying "In my experience we seem to have done the opposite thing in New Zealand. We almost exclusively use 'brought'." Clutching at straws I know, but I must try to regain some respect...

My real point of course is that while the British may be taking to using 'bought' too often, it certainly seems to me that those of us down under tend to misuse 'brought' instead.
Since making that comment, I've been watching quite closely when people use the words 'brought' and 'bought' and I pleased to report there do exist some people who do use the words 'correctly'. However, I still feel that people who consistently use bought to refer to a purchase are few and far between. It might be my age group, or my particular circle of friends.

So I'm asking for your help. Have a listen next time you hear someone talking about the latest thing they bought. Do they say 'brought'?

Do I have friends who are particularly poor at using these words? or do Richard Bentley and Russell McMahon tend to 'hang out' with those who like to speak proper?

Remember knowing how we should use a word doesn't actually mean we really do use it that way.

Let the comments come!

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