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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At 9:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hehe I'm laughing! What a little adventure you've just had! I would love to visit that site!

I really enjoyed linguistics at Uni, we focussed more on how incorrect english doesn't mean that communication doesn't happen successfully. How cultures are are flexible with their languages and are more focussed on understanding each other, than being perfectly correct, though with understanding eachother, most things have to be correct! So it's kind of hard to find the line, soon english could become another pigeon language!! It's the extremes between modern day loose english understanding, and the colonial era's perfect diction, language and pronounciation which made you educated and respected. Education and correct english meant you had a brain. When really speaking is all about communication rather than how smart you are...

But then I can vote for colonialism anyday when I hear speakers or even day to day conversation when things are acceptable even though they don't make sense anymore! My biggest irritation, even during a sermon, is when someone uses 'k' at the end of 'ing' words.

"There is nothink we can do for her" does NOT make sense! The use of THING at the end of that word is esential to it's meaning and the sentance having meaning.
"There is nothing we can do for her," means there is not a thing we can do for her. Not a think we can do for her is just plainly incorrect.

I tried to correct someone about it, as about 3 out of 4 people I speak with are heavily attached to 'k'. They laughed, slightly bemused as though I was correcting them on their pronounciation, (eg: is it hooray or hoorah?)another ball game... but really!!! "anythink" and "nothink" and "somethink" don't make sense!!! makes my hands turn into fists!!! ha ha!


am I a colonialist?

At 9:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

sorry wasn't meant to be anonymouse, but my name is so so long and I don't have the energy to change it...

I don't have anythink more to say...

kidding... kill the k I say!!!


At 10:03 PM, Blogger James said...

It is surprising how many people have studied linguistics...

It all goes to show that a little knowledge is dangerous, I made a poorly researched suggestion about NZ english and got called on it :)
That sort of thing happens I guess...

I haven't noticed a lot of people using 'somethink' which probably suggests it doesn't both me a lot :) I do have a friend though who pronounces the 'g' on the end of those words 'something-g' which I find pretty annoying-g though:)

I guess you could say english is becoming a pidgin language in that is being used by people from diverse linguistic backgrounds to communicate, but I still don't see it ever really being a pidgin especially as a pidgin generally has no native speakers...

I wonder if 'colonial times' really did have better diction or if people trying to hang on to how they learnt the language have just made it sound like there is some 'ideal' way to speak. Language change has been going on ever since the tower of babel, I don't see any reason why a certain generation would skip that process?

- James

At 5:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am beside myself reading comments from illiterate idiots,i am able to reply to you because i have a new computer what i have just brought from a shop, i bought it home with me to see if it will help me learn to comunicate with other like minded people who talk like what i do.

At 5:47 AM, Anonymous Russell McMahon said...

I don't have anything useful to add, but was amused to stumble across this suggestion that I mix principally with people who speak proper. In fact, fwiw, a fair few of my regular contacts and friends are from an ethnic group who have more of their number here in Auckland than in their home country, so brought and bought would be the least of the improperisms that I encounter day to day.


Russell McMahon

At 1:22 AM, Blogger The Daily English Show said...

Interesting post. I just accidentally said "bought" instead of "brought" and thought, "that's weird, is that just a random thing I did, or is it a NZ English thing" ... then I searched and came across this.

At 7:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am an aussie, and have had many kiwi (new zealander) friends over the years, but have never heard someone using 'brought' when they meant 'bought'.
However, I DO hear 'bought' instead of 'brought' on an almost daily basis. I correct people wherever possibly as it has lead to confusion more than one.
i.e. Them: "I bought a set of speakers today"
Me: "Why did you buy them? You could have used the spare ones here"
Them: "What? No I bought it from home"
Me: "Oh, you mean 'brought it from home' "
Them: "That's what I said"
Me: "Uhhh... no you didn't"

Even worse, is when a friend frequently uses the word "brang" instead of "brought" i.e. "I brang my car today". AAAARGH!

At 4:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amazing!! I am so glad I found this site. I was almost starting to second-guess myself. I have heard people from all over the South Island in NZ using the word brought, when they should be saying bought. I married a Kiwi and moved here from Canada. I've travelled quite a bit and have never heard this anywhere else. I've heard it used by folks who are a real cross-section of the population......anyone from the locals, who grew up 'on the dole', to the university educated wife of an Air NZ pilot!!! A real estate agent listed a house as 'Just waiting to be brought'. Brought where?? It drives me nuts when I hear the use of this word. How could such a large portion of the population, in an English speaking country, make such an error???

At 3:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kiwis are use Trademe, a similar site to Ebay. You just have to search the word brought to see how prevelant the use of brought fot the meaning bought is. I had many friends at school say it. It is pretty sad to see adults still use the mispronounciation, doesn't really speak volumes for the intelligence of many Kiwis. Sadly it is probably a parent to child handmedown that will never go away. Thankfully not everyone says the wrong word, just enough to make it irritating.

At 5:34 AM, Blogger Marlys Jean said...

I am America, my partner is English, we have friends/family from England who exclusively use brought (with a distinct R sound" when indications they purchased something (bought). They often comment on my pronunciation of words but the U.K. has a they just can't justify .


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