Monday, November 5, 2012

Dragged vs Drug by Grammar Girl


Today's topic is “dragged” versus “drug" by Mignon Fogarty.


I've been renovating a condo, and last week I posted a message on Twitter that started out with the sentence “I drug myself over to the condo.” I was sharing this bit of information to get to the next part of the story, which was that I was so happy to see drywall installed I thought I would cry. But that bit of joy was lost because I'd used the wrong word in my sentence and people kindly let me know.


"Dragged" Versus "Drug"

That's one danger of sending text messages when you're exhausted, at least it is when you're Grammar Girl. I might not have been so careless if I wasn't dissolving into tears over drywall, but the truth is that I actually thought it was OK to use the word “drug” that way. The whole experience was instructive because I learned that I'm not the only one who's confused about “dragged” versus “drug.”

First, let me be clear – the correct form of the word is “dragged.” I should have said, “I dragged myself over to the condo.” “Drag” is a regular verb, which means you add “d,” “ed,” or in this case “ged” to make it past tense. “Drag” becomes “dragged.”


“Drug” is Dialect

But it turns out that treating “drag” as an irregular verb and using “drug” as the past tense is common in some parts of America. Linguists call it dialect, which essentially means it's a language quirk shared by a group of people. Dialect can be shared by any group of people; for example, quirks can be shared by people who live in the same region, were educated by the same system, or inhabit the same social class.

Using “drug” as the past tense of “drag” is a dialect common to people who live in the southern United States, but linguists have noted that it is used frequently in states as far west as Nebraska. Strangely, they don't say anything about it being used widely in the West, where I've lived my whole life, so I can't explain why I was confused.

Just Say No to “Drug”

The quick and dirty tip is to just say no to “drug.” Its only standard meaning has to do with illegal drugs or pharmaceuticals. “Dragged” is the proper past tense form of the word “drag” when you're using it to talk about having pulled something across the floor. And when you're tired and stumbling into a room like a half-dead mouse, people who want to give you a hard time can say, “Look what the cat dragged in.”

I'm Mignon Fogarty, author of Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing.

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