For about a month now, I've been cataloging every compound verb I encounter that, for whatever reason, causes some people to inflect both of its components in the past tense (see title for examples). I was originally driven to do this after reading a discussion on the word "slept-walked" and an associated blog post, leaving me to wonder what other doubly-inflected past-tense verb forms I could find decently well-attested on the internet. For instance: while "kicked-started" (or "kickedstarted") is technically incorrect, quote-searching it on Google nevertheless reveals thousands of people who have been mysteriously compelled to add '-ed' to both parts of the compound.

As should be obvious, this is all super interesting to me. So my question is as follows: Does any documentation currently exist for this phenomenon of over-inflected compounds in English? If nothing else, is there at least an agreed-upon term for what I'm describing? And lastly, I know it's a long shot, but if anyone knows of a complete list of verbs fitting the criteria in question, I'd also love a link to that as well.

There are still loads of little things on the matter that I want to dig into, like if this can happen with other parts of speech, whether a similar thing is seen in other languages, how it might be explained from different linguistic standpoints, and so on. But overall, I really just want to learn more in general about this specific little quirk of English, as admittedly insignificant as it may be.

Any help, guidance, or insight is greatly appreciated. Thanks~!

  • I'm not confident here, but have you checked out anthimeria, or using one part of speech as another? Treating sleepwalk as two separate inflected verbs rather than as one verb (sleepwalk), or treating sleep as a verb rather than a noun, may be a kind of anthimeria that doesn't work so well. Jul 7, 2020 at 18:40
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    @TaliesinMerlin I hadn't heard of that, no. But reading up on it a little, I for sure see the connection there. Definitely something I'll have to look into. Thanks for the tip! And wouldn't you know it, anthimeria is the exact sort of vocab I was hoping to get out of posting here in the first place. Jul 7, 2020 at 18:53
  • I nearly fell overed when I saw this (or should it be felled overed). Are there any attested triple (or even quadruple) inflected verbs? Jul 7, 2020 at 19:38
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    Yikes - "kicked started" appears in published books! google.com/… Jul 7, 2020 at 19:46
  • Thank you for raising a question that has been bothering me about descriptive grammar )of which I am an advocate). If how a word is used is all that matters, then it should follow that if enough people (however many that might be) use this ‘double inflection’, we all have to concede that it has become established as ‘correct’. However that may be, I wouldn’t recommend your copying it in an application for a fellowship at an Oxbridge college in the U.K. or an Ivy League university in the US.
    – Tuffy
    Jul 7, 2020 at 21:51

2 Answers 2


I have never heard about this odd behavior before. Inspired by your question, I looked into it, and found this, which you may find helpful. https://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=4148


If nothing else, is there at least an agreed-upon term for what I'm describing?

Yes, its called an error.


Etymology: Back-formation < sleep-walking n. and adj."

to kickstart (originally of motobikes)

Etymology: kick (n.) + to start (v)

Etymology: cross-reference v. < cross-reference n.

Cross- combination form 1. General uses in combination. a. From cross n.

Thus cross(n.) + reference(n.)

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    Uh, what does "back-formation" have to do with "sleep-walking"?
    – Hot Licks
    Jul 7, 2020 at 19:50
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    I agree that it's an error, but if we're talking about error classification, how would we describe the error? Jul 7, 2020 at 19:54
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    @TaliesinMerlin probably "overcorrection".
    – Greybeard
    Jul 7, 2020 at 19:55
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    @Greybeard I like that better! That at least gets at the kind of error being made. Jul 7, 2020 at 19:57
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    @HotLicks It was backed-formed :p
    – Laurel
    Jul 7, 2020 at 22:03

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