grow a custom (to)

In a recent posting from an acquaintance:

… had never experienced the full blown resort/spa experience that I’ve so grown a custom.

Two features of interest here: grown a custom for grown accustomed, and the absence of the preposition to (of grown accustomed to). Neither feature is standard, but they’re both old friends on linguablogs.First, the missing preposition. Usage critics would see this simply as a violation of Include All Necessary Words, but in fact there are quite a number of different phenomena in which variants differ only in having or not having a preposition in some slot — a dozen or so, last time I looked. Some of them have been discussed on Language Log and other blogs and mailing lists; see the 2005 Language Log posting here and the sequence of 2007 postings here, here, here, and here.

The salient features of grown accustomed (without to) are two: the preposition that is absent would be stranded if present, and this preposition (or a small set of prepositions including this one) is in some sense predictable from the immediately preceding context. In this case, the accustomed of grow/become/be accustomed is a predicative adjective that selects the preposition to. So it’s scarcely surprising that people will sometimes omit the semantically redundant to, even though it’s syntactically obligatory in standard English. I call the general phenomenon “preposition absorption”.

(It can be hard to distinguish this case from other sorts of missing prepositions, for example the cases labeled “preposition cannibalism” by Fowler and discussed on Language Log, and cases where an entire PP is missing but can be supplied from context, as in I’ve grown accustomed ‘I’ve grown accustomed to it’.).

A few accustomed examples:

Much more than the basic kick, punch, and sport sparring that you have grown accustomed. A traditional Korean martial art … (link)

Come out and enjoy a late afternoon/early evening gig this Sunday at Fells Point’s Waterfront Hotel. We will be doing a couple of sets of originals and cover material with a little less ferocity then you might be accustomed. (link)

It all depends which one you have become accustomed. They’re both pretty good. (link)

Then a few other examples of preposition absorption from my files:

…9/11, when groupthink became the official substitute for patriotism, and we began running out of surfaces for affixing American flags [to]. (Barbara Ehrenreich, “All Together Now”, NYT op-ed piece, 7/15/04, p. A23)

… take a variable that we already know the behavior [of]. (NWAV presentation, 10/21/05)

… and other important things that we hope to get them the money [for]. (Rep. Barney Frank on NPR’s Saturday Morning Edition, 1/19/08)

(Preposition absorption is closely related to the “transitivizing P-drop” cases I’ve mentioned on Language Log: depart (from) Seattle and the like.)

Now to grow a custom (with or without to). There are two steps here. We start with grow accustomed, with predicative adjective accustomed (historically from the past participle form of the verb accustom), in standard English with PP complements in to.

The next step is phonological: “final t/d deletion” (discussed under various labels in the (voluminous) literature on the phenomenon), especially favored when the following word begins with a consonant, especially [t] or [d], especially in lexicalized phrases. Ice(d) tea is a textbook example, but there are many others.

In the case of accustom(ed) to, I suspect that the [d] of accustomed is hardly ever pronounced, except in hyperarticulate speech.

That gets us to accustom to, now frequently spelled without the ED, in an “ear spelling”. Stupendous number of Google hits, including many from people who’ve reworked the My Fair Lady lyrics:

Many Americans find it difficult to pay down their debt. Mostly because they have become accustom to living on their credit cards and find it difficult to put them down. (link)

… I grew up my in household by myself. I am accustom to having particular comforts, especially in the food and transportation. (link)

Damn, Damn, Damn, I’ve grown accustom to her face! She almost makes the day begin. I’ve grown accustom to the tune she whistles night and noon (link)

Now we get to an eggcorning, one not discussed on the Eggcorn Database, in which accustom is reanalyzed as a custom, neatly resurrecting the custom in the verb accustom, so that grow a custom to is understood as something along the lines of ‘develop a custom towards’. Some hits:

Many users prefer to have the menus show in Internet Explorer 7 or 8 as they have grown a custom to using them to carry out regular task. (link)

After a while you will grow a custom to your own writing habits, and will create your own outline. (link)

While everyone should expect shipping rates to go up, this comes at a tough time for online shoppers who are growing a custom to getting free shipping on all their online orders … (link)

It’s not just grow:

… it is time to go up to London and both put my professional skills to good use and earn a living to pay my way and provide me with the independant lifestyle I am a custom to. (link)

This article made me think of putting together a quick list of Ajax tools I have become a custom to using. (link)

The reanalysis might have been fostered by the noun custom with infinitival VP complements, as in “It is a custom to play practical jokes on the professor”, “It is our custom to eat dinner at 8”, and the like.

3 Responses to “grow a custom (to)”

  1. mined « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] recently discussed on Language Log here, mentioned several times on this blog, most extensively here); in never mind then and don’t mind me, the final /d/ is especially likely to be omitted in […]

  2. More Prepositional Cannibalism « Literal-Minded Says:

    […] Zwicky has some examples of a dropped preposition with no other prepositions at all in the sentence, including these: … […]

  3. most commented « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] P absorption and P drop that have been discussed on Language Log, this blog, and elsewhere (notably here), although it shares with these examples that the missing P “is in some sense predictable […]

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