Saturday, December 6, 2008


Just discovered this site, Wordie, which has all sorts of interesting lists with words like louche and crepuscular, and comments like this one about the word rumored:

A highly unusual verb in Present-day English: it has only this one verb form. Although it was historically a full verb with all its parts ('Come hither Catesby, rumor it abroad, That Anne my Wife is very grieuous sicke.'—Richard III, IV.ii), for most of us today it can only be a past participle.

This raises the question of why it should be counted a verb at all, rather than an adjective: compare 'she was rumoured to be dead', 'she was keen/eager/reluctant to be dead': adjectives can take infinitival clause complements.

Well last night I found the answer, when I read this sentence opening Dorothy Parker's 'Mrs. Hoftstadter on Josephine Street':

That summer, the Colonel and I leased a bungalow named 947 West Catalpa Boulevard, rumored completely furnished: three forks, but twenty-four nutpicks.

'Completely furnished' is an adjective phrase (AdjP), and adjectives can't take AdjP complements, but verbs can: compare *'eager/easy/pleasant completely furnished' with 'considered completely furnished'. And indeed, on checking Google this morning, I find quite a few "was rumoured dead"—not the way I'd say it myself (I'd much prefer to add 'to be'), but common enough to prove it's verbal in Standard English. So, another discovery.