Drink, drank, was drunk

Today’s «Weekend Australian Magazine» features a story about Australia’s under-recognised naval heroes. It’s a good story, but one of the photographs carries a caption which reads, in part: “…the warship under his command, HMS Yarra, which sunk in 1942.”

Of course it should read “which sank in 1942” or “which was sunk in 1942.”

Americans sometimes use “sunk” as the past tense of “sink”, though they leave “drink, drank, was drunk” alone.

Perhaps it’s creeping Americanisation, like “cotton candy” for the older Australian “fairy floss” (though few American men would risk asking for “fairy floss”). Or “sidewalk” for “footpath” or “pavement”, and “suspenders” for “braces”… but who wears braces any more?

Or perhaps it’s the astonishing rise of the Internet, which took millions of dollars from the advertising revenue of our great newspapers, and impoverished them.

I’d like to, but I can’t blame the newspaper owners for sacking half their staff, including the trained sub-editors who would have corrected this blunder, and filling what used to be called “the color supplements” with recipes for Devilled Frog’s Eggs, advertisements for watches that cost ten thousand dollars apiece flaunted by “celebrities”, respectful articles about sportspeople and even tradespeople who once were mere servants (cooks, waiters, sommeliers), lists of “Tasmania’s one hundred most important movers and shakers” and other journalistic drivel.

I can’t blame them, but I wish it hadn’t happened. Then again, spending my weekend hours criticising grammatical errors in a newspaper is hardly a sensible way to employ my analytical faculties, when they could be invested more usefully in tending to the bees in my villa at Fulworth, on the southern slope of the Sussex Downs, commanding a wonderful view of the English Channel (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) or checking the correct metrical interpretation — translated to accentual-syllabic verse — of the Adonic fourth line in the classic Sapphic stanza. Dum-da-da Dum-da… dactyl and trochee… that’s it!