mined

“It was my breaking point,” Paul recalls. “That was the first time in my life that I really mined deep enough and I recognized the damage that had been done to me over the years, and now I’m pissed off.”

(Paul Katami, who with his partner Jeff Zarrillo, was a plaintiff in Perry v Schwarzenegger [the “Prop. 8 trial”], quoted by Mike Wood in “The Faces for Equality”, Instinct Nov. 2010, p. 32; emphasis mine)

From the rest of the context it’s clear that a past tense form was intended here: minded in standard English. Though MINED as a ear-spelling for MIND is not uncommon, present-tense mind is pretty clearly not the target form in this quote. Instead, the spelling looks like it stands for the past tense of a verb MINE /majn/ ‘mind’.

[Digression: It’s possible, of course, that the spelling is nothing more than a typo on Instinct‘s part, and that what Katami said was minded, with the first D omitted by accident in preparing copy for publication.

So I did look for other cases, but the search is difficult, since you need clearly past-tense contexts involving the verb mind (and not the mineral-extraction verb mine in its literal or metaphorical uses). To illustrate the problem, consider this possible example (reproduced here exactly as in the original):

I also have a hi-mount an an R6 and like it. I had a guy mention on a ride that he doesn’t like how the exhaust goes into the face of the person riding behind the exhaust on group rides, i never really mined it myself. (BlindSeaman 5/23/04 on a sportbiking site here)

My first interpretation was that MINED here was a non-standard past tense of the verb mind, but I can’t entirely exclude the possibility that it represents a misspelled base-form mind, with a temporal-universal reading of never rather than a past-time reading of it.]

How else could you get a spelling MINED (or, for that matter, MIND) for the past tense of mind? The first step is getting MINE as a spelling of the base form of mind, and there are many thousands of examples to be found out there, for instance:

Oh, never mine then. I seriously dislike Activision ): (link)

Wow! Big time sex appeal going on with that pic, if you don’t mine me saying…. (link)

This is an ear-spelling of /majn/ as a variant of /majnd/, exhibiting “(final) t/d deletion” (most 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 all but the most careful pronunciations.

The second step is for the “reduced” pronunciation of mind — /majn/ — to be taken as the base-form phonology of the verb in question (such reinterpretations are not uncommon), in which case the base form would be spelled MINE, and the past-tense form would be /majnd/, spelled MINED. Voilà.

Still, more data is needed.

8 Responses to “mined”

  1. Bobo Linq Says:

    What makes you think he didn’t in fact use “mine” in the metaphorical sense?

    You can “mine deep” underground; you can “deeply mind” or “mind deeply,” but to “mind deep” strikes me as odd.

    And the reference to damage done “over the years” reinforces the possibility that he’s talking about “mining” into one’s past. He “mined deep enough” (through therapy or something similar) to recognize past damage.

    Isn’t this at least as likely as your various hypotheses about how “mind” would generate past-tense “mind”?

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      To Bobo Linq: A great many points here. I don’t see any evidence in the article of Katami’s “mining” into his past, only evidence of his long-standing position on same-sex marriage and an increasing unwillingness to let the current situation go unchallenged. That is, he came to care (or mind) more and more about the matter.

      I took “mined deep enough” to have the zero-suffix adverbial deep; zero-suffix manner and degree adverbials (rather than –ly-suffix ones) are common in vernacular English.

      But I take your point. This is another credible hypothesis, in addition to the two I offered. Further data might help to decide, though of course the real question in this particular case is what Katami had in his mind.

      And that turns out to be amazingly difficult to investigate, even if I could get access to Katami. People’s memories aren’t good, their abilities to explore the workings of their minds by introspection are extremely limited, and being interviewed by a linguist is likely to skew their responses in complicated and unpredictable ways.

      The larger point is that this example led me to explore the possibility of reanalysis — if not for this speaker, then for others.

  2. ed cook Says:

    There could be a phonotactic rule developing that says “no past tense morpheme on lexeme-final /t/ or /d/”; e.g., a lot of kids use “text” (“He text me yesterday”) as a past tense (perhaps after analogy of forms like past “hit”).

  3. Amanda Walker Says:

    I find it very difficult to read it as anything other than the past tense of “mine” (i.e., dig in search of something). This seems a very common usage going back at least to “data mining”. I quite frequently encounter expressions like “we need to mine our logs and extract some statistics”, or “mine the data to find natural groupings” where “mine” is used to mean “sift through a lot of stuff looking for something significant.”

  4. John Lawler Says:

    I, too, had to wait for Arnold to point it out; I was trying to figure out how the Mining metaphor worked.

  5. The Ridger Says:

    When I read that I hesitated over “mined” and decided it had to be wrong; “mining” didn’t make much sense. Then I decided he’d said “mind” but I didn’t read it as a past tense; it was like “it was the first time I care, so I did something” – a sort of emphatic timeless verb, rather than a past OR present… I can imagine “it was the first time I HEAR what he was saying” or “it was the first time I really SEE what’s happening” as easily as “heard” or “saw”. – Like the motorcycle rider and his possible “I never mind it” instead of “never minded it”.

    But other examples are certainly more clearly a past tense of “mined” for a present of “mine”. It’s odd, because with many other verbs I might think there was some reanalysis going on, but with “mind” I find it hard to think of using it without “do” (there’s a British “mind the gap” or “mind your step”, but mostly I hear it in negatives: “I don’t mind” , or questions “Do you mind…?”) and so the -D couldn’t be a past tense marker.

    Very interesting indeed.

  6. ShadowFox Says:

    I sent a comment directly to AZ, but he suggested I should also post it here. First, I also suspected the “mine==dig” connection in the first example, just as several other comments suggest. But even if it is a correct assumption, that only accounts for the first example.

    [The rest is picked up verbatim from the email:]

    The second example is interesting but for a different reason–it presents to particular context where I have encountered “mined” for “minded”–specifically, “mined it” for “minded it” (sort of, “mine didit”), something that I believe I’ve heard quite frequently, actually. Note that there may be a different phonetic issue here from the one [AZ] present[ed]–basically dropping a falsely-redundant syllable (that is, interpreting a perfectly legitimate repetition as a redundancy). Even in the simple present tense form this would be similar: e.g., “I don’t mind it” –> “I don’t mine it”. This would make for a slightly different 2-step process that leads to your third group of examples–almost the opposite direction of the process you give (first treating the past tense, then analogizing the present tense/infinitive/base form).

    [additional comment:]

    Perhaps the syllabic collapse is too broad of a concept here. Perhaps it’s just an unstated rule that multiple instances of d/t (whether separated by vowels or not) collapse to shorter strings involving d/t (especially when assisted by a nasal preceding it). Without more evidence, it is not an easy thing to track. And it would have been nice to have a similar m/b/b/b string to go with the n/d/d/d string here (or some b/p combination vs. d/t combination). Perhaps there are more -ind words that may lead to similar situations where the corresponding -ine word does not exist or makes no sense at all in the same context (bind, rind, kind, grind, find are the only ones that come to mind and “bind” is the only one that would have worked–if it were regular). But why stop there? Why not look for -aund (bound, ground, found are interesting for yet another reason; but there is also sound, round, rebound, mound, astound, pound, hound–all as verbs).

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