I slept (or sleeped) and dreamt (or dreamed)

Some time ago I posted about the alternation between leaned and leant, dream and dreamt etc. I said that I had more-or-less decided to use leaned and dreamed, mostly because they are clearer for second-language listeners to understand, but then I quite naturally used leant when talking to one second-language listener. 

My work team has been working from home (mostly full-time but at least part-time) for almost two years. Alongside work-related emails, we send social/personal ones. One of my colleagues is studying psychology and is particularly interested in dreams. I can’t remember enough of most of my dreams, but occasionally one will persist after I wake up. A few days ago I sent an email with a brief description of my dream, starting “I dreamed …”. Another colleague picked me up this, so I explained the alternation and my decision, with a link to my blog post. She commented that the song from Les Misérables really couldn’t be I dreamt a dream. (With a side thought about the alternation between I dreamed/dreamt a dream and I dreamed/dreamt, and also I had a dream.) 

Along the way, because of its connection with dream, I also thought about sleep, which has the strong irregular form slept. But sleep now means something like to place a computer into a power saving mode. We can sleep a computer, and sleeping a computer is also common, but do we say I slept my computer or I sleeped a computer? At the moment, the usage isn’t common enough to be sure. There are a handful of results for I slept my computer and one for I sleeped my computer. Most people avoid the problem by putting their computer into sleep mode. Compare Stephen Pinker’s example of The batter flied out to centre (<my Australian-set auto-correct changed center to centre), not The batter flew out to centre. Because of my almost zero experience of baseball, I don’t have to worry about that, though.

Despite what I wrote in the title to this post, I definitely slept, but I may have dreamt or dreamed.


2 thoughts on “I slept (or sleeped) and dreamt (or dreamed)

  1. I’ve never heard anyone, including myself, talk about “sleeping” a computer; this transitivization of intransitive verbs is fairly novel in any case.

    But there are related questions about pluralization of nouns that get new meanings, in tech or otherwise.

    For your baseball example of “flied out”, if one refers to, say, the number of fly balls caught by a player, the plural would probably be spelled “flys” rather than flies.” In fact, I’ve seen the spelling “flys” listed in some dictionaries as the plural of “fly” when it has a specific meaning, e.g. a type of carriage.

    Getting back to tech, when the computer mouse first appeared on the scene there was some doubt in my mind about whether the plural should be “mouses” or “mice.” It seems that “mice” has generally won out here. And speaking of small rodents, the spelling of “mic” as a short version of “microphone” presents spelling issues as well, not with the plural but with the past tense when it’s used as a verb.
    When the spelling was “mike”, in the good old days, there was no problem. But how do you spell what used to be spelled “miked”? “miced” looks bad for obvious reasons. “mic’d” might work but looks extremely old-fashioned.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Transitive “sleep” (as in ‘computer’) is certainly very, very rare and maybe I’m making too much of it. Stephen Pinker also discusses regularisation of plural nouns – his example is the Toronto Maple Leafs. Google shows about 3m results for “computer mice” (in quotation marks for exact match) and about 850,000 for “computer mouses”, so the latter isn’t/aren’t dead yet.

    Tech and abbrevs have always be challenge to pronunciation, spelling and regularisation. Mic/mike is a pretty extreme example which is probably not resolved yet.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s