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vent or vented?

June 27, 2015

Today I was in a bookshop and picked up an edition of Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan (which I have never read all the way through and I was wondering if it was worth it). The first page of the introduction, written by J. Gaskin, contained the sentence: “Oxford belatedly vent its spite on Hobbes…”

It was only when I’d got onto the next paragraph that I thought, “Hang on – vent?”

Clearly vent is intended as a past tense there. What’s more it sounds like one. A small group of words in English do form the past tense that way. For instance, rent is the past tense of rend. And lent is the past tense of lend. Just so, went is a past tense – it’s used in modern English as the past tense of go, but originally was the past tense of a different verb, wend, which is now rarely heard but occasionally surfaces in the jocular phrase wend one’s weary way. However, vent doesn’t fit into this group. Vent is the root verb; the past is vented. Why didn’t J. Gaskin, clearly an extremely highly educated man, notice this? Why didn’t his editor? Oh, wait, he was the editor.

Sorry – had to vent my feelings on that.

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