Wednesday, August 27, 2014


Several days ago a neighbor left on my kitchen table four pages of hand-written notes about the 1909 wreck of the German steamship, Brewster (look for a future Ocracoke Newsletter about this shipwreck).

In her third paragraph my neighbor wrote, "One by one the men taken the life ring over to L. S. [Life Saving] boat." Then she added, "They taken about 9 men at a time to Hatt. [Hatteras] Inlet...."

I was reminded of this interesting use, by native islanders, of the word "taken" for "took." I even discovered the same usage in one of the Life Saving Service reports about the wreck of the Brewster: "I tacon [taken=took] the Cape Hatteras life boat in tow and carried hur under the beach in the bite of Cape Hatteras."

In an email from Walt Wolfram, Director of the North Carolina Language and Life Project, he explained that "the use of 'taken' for 'took' is one of those cases where the past tense and participle have merged in English," and  "the historical participle is used for both past and participle." Other examples Walt offered were "she seen," "he come," and "they done."

This usage is not as common on Ocracoke as it once was, but if you listen carefully you will occasionally hear it even today.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of late 19th century steamship traffic to Ocracoke, and the large Victorian hotel that accommodated the guests. You can read the article here:

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