“Hoover” spotting; “Leapt”

Nancy Friedman alerted me to a passage from the February 22 New York Times because of the NOOB five words from the end.

As she rose from her chair at the Calvin Klein fashion show in Midtown Manhattan the other week, Jessica Chastain was all but engulfed by an onrush of journalists and celebrity groupies imploring the lanky, flame-haired actress for a word, a glance, a nanosecond of her time.

Stefano Tonchi, the editor of W, embraced her showily as cameras clicked and whirred. Tim Blanks, the editor at large for Style.com, thrust a microphone in her face, pleading for an interview, before a pair of overzealous handlers leapt onto the catwalk to spirit her away.

Yes, Ms. Chastain can Hoover that kind of attention.

But what also caught my eye was the British leapt at the end of the second paragraph; the traditional American spelling is leaped. Sure, the -pt form is gaining ground. Sticking with the Times, it has used leaped 45,800 times since it started publishing in 1851, compared to 13,100 for leapt. But in the last twelve months, the tables have turned: there have been 793 leapts in the paper and only 301 leapeds.

The Times is ahead of the curve on this. The Lexis-Nexis database of U.S. newspapers reveals 1231 leapts in the past six months compared to 1528 leapeds. But it seems clear that leaped better enjoy its dominance now, because it won’t last much longer.

31 thoughts on ““Hoover” spotting; “Leapt”

  1. I grew up in Cambria County, on the other side of your commonwealth, a county populated largely by coal miners and steelworkers, Germans, Polish, etc. In speaking, we always used leapt, not leaped.

    1. In standard American pronunciation, leaped is “leept” and leapt is “lept.” Dreamed is “dreemd” and dreamt is “dremt.” As for leaped/leapt. I never gave either of these much thought, assuming that they were just divergent ways of pronouncing/selling the same thing, but now that I think about it, I’d say that the latter versions (leaped and dreamed) are more common in the US.

      With leaped/leapt it’s sort of a moot point, as “leap” isn’t a verb you hear Americans using very much in casual conversation.

  2. The reporter’s use of “Hoover” for sucking up attention, is a rather banal affectation. British women (men) are guilty of Hoovering their rugs; Americans, not, unless, possibly, they do so one-handed as they check The New Yorker for umlauts and the like.

    1. I don’t think you mean umlaut; do you mean diaeresis? It’s not quite the same; people often confuse the two. Anyway, the reporter using the word hoover may not be an affectation; it may just be a word he knows and it’s certainly easier to call it a hoover than a vacuum cleaner, and to hoover the floor than to clean it with a vacuum cleaner. Shorter and easier.

  3. “leaped”/”leapt” has one of the rarer English spelling oddities: changing one part of the spelling changes the sound of a different part. Other examples include “prophecy”/”prophesy” and “woman”/”women”.

    Is the capital H in “Hoover” NYT style for all genericized trademarks, or is it an admission of the word’s denizen status? It’s not something a hoovering Brit would do; nor would a xeroxing American.

  4. I don’t know whether TV shows count, but I just noticed a ‘leapt’ in Rizzoli & Isles. Rizzoli comments that Isles “Leapt to a conclusion.”

  5. Britons, like Canadians, would say “‘Hoover up” rather than “Hoover” if they were using the expression metaphorically, and I don’t think they would, in any case, use “Hoover”, with “up” or not, in a passage like this one, where it seems to be a stand-in for “attract”: “Hoover up” in BrE means “gather in quickly” or “grab greedily”.

  6. I’m not sure whether I use “leaped” more than “leapt,” and I’m pretty sure that my mother prefers “dreamt,” although I grew up (in rural northern California) thinking that was a bit old-fashioned. It seems that those forms were preferred by my older relatives. No British influence anywhere.

  7. Burnt is another one I see on mainly American websites, and spelt seems to be gaining ground over spelled; maybe people think spelt sounds more succinct?

      1. Well, context is a big clue. There’s also the reverse example; while American English may prefer “spelled”, there are cases where Americans spell two different English words identically whereas they’d be spelt differently in England. Practice/practise, story/storey, etc.

    1. Burnt is one of those Britishisms that I’ve seen slowly encroaching in the US within my lifetime. When I was a kid, it was always just “burned,” to the point where “burnt” sounded strange and foreign to my ear. But I feel like nowadays, you’re more than likely to hear “burnt” used in many contexts.

  8. Hi there – I’m a Brit of a certain age (as the French say), and just happened upon your fascinating blog. Must say, I was never even aware that “leaped” existed – it seems wrong now even typing it! Over here in the UK it’s “leapt”, no question – much like “slept”, never “sleeped”. “Burnt” is a different matter though: thinking about it, I would say that we tend to use “burnt” as an adjective – “this cake is burnt” , and “burned” as a past participle: “he burned the cakes”. “Spelt” is still used but on its way to archaic, “spelled” being more common. The same applies to “dreamt / dreamed”. Hope this adds to the sum of human knowledge!

    1. “Kids just want to get drunk or high at the weekends, some hang out at the mall, though there’s not much there any more either, but for a lot of them they don’t have much vision for the future except maybe getting a job at the convenience store or the airport. There’s no mill jobs. Some join the military, but the best way by far to make it big in the town – and if you want to get out – is sport, especially football,” she said. (Dalte Beal, 26, a shop assistant at the airport in Pittsburgh)
      “Those who are able to get out and better themselves do. Those who stay behind in these depressed towns are often more into glorifying sport and protecting the heroes than they are in treating women with respect,” she said. (Onlooker Judi Panasik, from the nearby town of Washington across the border in Pennsylvania, said the verdict was an important step to correct what she believed was “a culture of rape” in male sport, in particular the macho sport of football, and in the region.)

      1. Did nobody notice the use of catwalk in the original article? Runway is the correct US expresson surely?

      2. I think a runway is something an aeroplane uses to take off and land. A catwalk is something different. You know that song by Right Said Fred, “I’m Too Sexy”, right?

    2. I”m not convinced that a) the reporter didn’t get the quote wrong, or b) The Guardian didn’t translate for U.K. audiences. I know from personal experience, having been interviewed myself, that what is said isn’t always what gets printed.

    3. Somewhat related to this, my dad was watching the news and there was an interview with Sean Wheelock (an American sport journalist from Kansas City), and he used the singular sport repeatedly, as well as football meaning association football. The one time he mentioned American football, he called it American football. His speech sounded completely natural; he was responding to questions asked of him in the studio, so I think he’s picked up the English style as he has been reporting on the subject for a while. He was talking about rich American businessmen attempting to buy English football clubs, like Liverpool.

  9. Playing on BBC America as I write, wherein The Doctor says, “Hoovering up data; hoovering up people.”
    “Doctor Who : The Bells of Saint John” S07, E06 (First Aired: March 30, 2013) The Doctor searches for Clara in London, where something dangerous lurks in the Wi-Fi signals. TV-PG
    Cast: Matt Smith, Jenna-Louise Coleman, Celia Imrie, Robert Whitlock, Dan Li, Manpreet Bachu

  10. Leaped/leapt, dreamed/dreampt, burned/burnt, etc. are all examples of the fascinating phenomenon of AmE preserving the older pronunciation/spelling while BrE adopted newer ones. There was a movement starting in the 16th century toward using -t in place of -ed at the ends of these sorts of words. For whatever reason (perhaps because the American colonies were newly formed and were isolated from the mother country), the shift happened in Britain but not America.

    Many people (particularly Brits who look for reasons to criticize AmE) assume that usages like “Fall” (for the season) or “gotten” as the past participle of “got” are American oddities, but in fact these (and probably hundreds more) “Americanisms” are originally BrE terms which either remained common in the US after falling into disuse in their country of origin, or waned in use in both countries before (sometimes mysteriously) coming back to life in America.

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