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Is stove-in — smashed inward — an archaic expression?

Is it a regional expression? I was speaking with someone from my hometown (Salem, MA), and he used the word during our conversation. Made me think about regional language quirks.

Any ideas out there?

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This is just the past participle of 'stave vt.': "To break in the staves of; to break a hole in; to burst. Often with in." It doesn't seem to be regional, just uncommon. –  Mark Beadles Nov 20 '12 at 20:36
    
Not much to go on, but all instances of "I'll stove your {head in}" are from the last couple of decades, and sound perfectly "normal" to me. Whereas most instances of "I'll stave your {whatever}" are much older (and sound at least dated, if not positively archaic, to me). –  FumbleFingers Nov 20 '12 at 22:01
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I don't consider stove in all that uncommon (maybe that's regional, or maybe just some of the people I talk to). It's the present tense, stave, which you hardly ever hear. (And that's why it's turning into a regular verb: stove, stoved, have stoved, as @FumbleFingers says). –  Peter Shor Nov 20 '12 at 22:25
    
OED says under stove [irreg. pa. pple. of stave v.] Chiefly Naut. That has been ‘stove in’. Also stove-in. –  FumbleFingers Nov 20 '12 at 22:30
    
Although I've read variants of "I'll stave your skull in" often enough, that's because some of the stuff I read was written many years ago. I think almost nobody in the UK would use that form today. –  FumbleFingers Nov 21 '12 at 0:24

4 Answers 4

I'd say it was "stoved in", but then I'm English

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I'd say that too. Technically speaking, Mark's right that stove is past tense of stave - but it's not a particularly common word, so it's only to be expected people will force regular conjugation. Here are a couple of instances of will stove in showing that we're not alone in wanting to create a new regular verb "to stove [in]", and just forget about the possibility of will stave in. –  FumbleFingers Nov 20 '12 at 21:54
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This is exactly what happened to hoist, which was the past tense of hoise when Shakespeare wrote hoist by his own petard. –  Peter Shor Nov 20 '12 at 22:18
    
@Peter Shor: I've been admitting to having been "hoist by my own petard" for so long it never occurs to me to "regularise" that one, but you're quite right - many people do use "hoisted" there. It's a long slow process, but existing irregular verbs do tend to become regular, new irregular verbs are almost never coined, and existing regular verbs almost never become irregular. –  FumbleFingers Nov 20 '12 at 22:26
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@FumbleFingers “Irregular” covers a whole lot of ground in Modern English, of which probably only the suppletive verbs counts as wholly irregular and unpredictable. As for new strong verbs, I have heard three possible strong past tenses of tweet, and I can’t make up my mind which I like best: twet, twit, twat. :) I long ago relented on shat, dove, and snuck. Lately I’ve had my eye on split, splat. :) –  tchrist Nov 20 '12 at 23:48
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stove–in as adjective -- no pt. See also my comment at OP. –  Kris Nov 21 '12 at 5:16

Stave means to break the staves of - a stave (etymologically related to "staff") being a strip of wood used as structural element, most commonly in a barrel (which consists of staves and metal hoops) or a boat (the hull of which consists of staves and strakes).

"Stove" is the simple past tense of "stave". Unrelated to the heating apparatus. There is no "stoved" (unless you mean "cooked on a stove" I suppose). The past participle is "staved".

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Stove is also a past particple of stave. –  Mark Beadles Nov 21 '12 at 1:16
    
@MarkBeadles -- I can't disprove that, but I've never seen it. Do you have an example (i.e. a published work that used it as the p.p., and not in eye-dialect quote)? –  Malvolio Nov 21 '12 at 1:30
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@Malvolio Trivially granted via OED citations: §1819 Byron Juan ɪɪ. xlviii, ― The other boats, the yawl and pinnace, had Been stove in the beginning of the gale. §1743 Bulkeley & Cummins Voy. S. Seas 147 ― Otherwise she must have stove to pieces, the Ground being very foul. §1822 A. Clarke in Life x. (1834) 253, ― I found two of the maids··pushing··against the shutters, as the windows themselves had been stove in by the tempest. §1837 Knickerbocker Mag. Nov. X. 408 (Thornton Amer. Gloss.), ― [He had] stove two of his front teeth down his throat. –  tchrist Nov 21 '12 at 2:24

The OED shows the verb stave as having a frequently nautical application, describing the breaching of a vessel’s timbers. It gives the past tense and past participle as staved, but records that stove was used in nautical contexts in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The derived adjective, stove (-in) is a remnant of the earlier verbal form, in support of which the OED has this twentieth century citation: 'A stove-in radiator with rusty water blowing out of it.'

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The Dictionary of American Regional English lists the past participle of stave, but also lists the usage that I grew up with in West Virginia and Pittsburgh, PA as "to stub (a finger or tow), sprain (a joint of ligament)" especially in PA, OH and WV. I've not heard it personally in the broader sense.

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