H.L. Mencken (18801956). The American Language. 1921.
their writing, still use the future perfect, albeit somewhat laboriously and self-consciously, but in America it has virtually disappeared: one often reads whole books without encountering a single example of it. Even the present perfect and past perfect seem to be instinctively avoided. The Englishman says I have dined, but the American says I am through dinner; the Englishman says I had slept, but the American often says I was done sleeping. Thus the perfect tenses are forsaken for the simple present and the past. In the vulgate a further step is taken, and I have been there becomes I been there. Even in such phrases as he hasnt been here, aint (=am not) is commonly substituted for have not, thus giving the present perfect a flavor of the simple present. The step from I have taken to I taken was therefore neither difficult nor unnatural, and once it had been made the resulting locution was supported by the greater apparent regularity of its verb. Moreover, this perfect participle, thus put in place of the preterite, was further reinforced by the fact that it was the adjectival form of the verb, and hence collaterally familiar. Finally, it was also the authentic preterite in the passive voice, and although this influence, in view of the decay of the passive, may not have been of much consequence, nevertheless it is not to be dismissed as of no consequence at all.
The contrary substitution of the preterite for the perfect participle, as in I have went and he has did, apparently has a double influence behind it. In the first place, there is the effect of the confused and blundering effort, by an ignorant and unanalytical speaker, to give the perfect some grammatical differentiation when he finds himself getting into itan excursion not infrequently made necessary by logical exigencies, despite his inclination to keep out. The nearest indicator at hand is the disused preterite, and so it is put to use. Sometimes a sense of its uncouthness seems to linger, and there is a tendency to give it an en-suffix, thus bringing it into greater harmony with its tense. I find that boughten, just discussed, is used much oftener in the perfect than in the simple past tense;59 for the latter bought usually suffices. The quick ear of Lardner detects various other coinages of the same sort, among
Note 59. And still more often as an adjective, as in it was a boughten dress. [back]