In the song The Wrote and the Writ by British singer and songwriter Johnny Flynn, the title uses that phrase which comes from the the last verse of the song:

If you're born with a love for the wrote and the writ
People of letters your warning stands clear
Pay heed to your heart and not to your wit
Don't say in a letter what you can't in my ear

I fail to parse the wrote: how does it work grammatically? how is it perceived by a native speaker? what does it really mean, especially in contrast with the writ (archaism for the holy Scripture, I assume) ?

  • if wrote is substantival as the article the suggests, I didn't find it in the couple of online dictionaries I looked up (Cambridge, Collins) - unsurprisingly, both point only to the past tense of write.

  • if it is verbal, I don't think it could work as a past tense because of the article the. I thought it might be a (slang? dialectal?) past participle of write : the wrote = what is written. But again, I didn't find anything like that. Apparently (excuse the reference), using the past tense instead of past participle exists only as faulty English rather than slang, but a native speaker could confirm this.

While I'm happy to read about the meaning and context of the song, I am mostly curious about the grammar here.

Complete lyrics

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    Song lyrics do not have to "obey" the logic of grammar. It's all about beats, stress and rhymes. "Wrote" seems to stand for the "written word, as with writ, it's only one syllable. – Mari-Lou A Feb 22 at 11:23
  • @Mari-LouA Yes, it is very possible that there is no grammatical answer besides the 'artistic licence' argument :) – mcadorel Feb 22 at 11:28
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    It's deliberately ungrammatical. Thus off-topic on ELU. Writing.SE might look at ungrammatical (not extragrammatical, as some idioms are) devices. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 22 at 11:40
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    What @EdwinAshworth said. Puts me in mind of English as She Is Spoke. – FumbleFingers Feb 22 at 11:55
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    ... and the numerous plays what Ernie (Wise) has wrote. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 22 at 13:47

Google Ngrams for as was wrote,as was writ,as is wrote,as is writ shows a fair number of examples of all forms between 1800 and c.1920. After that date, and to the present, there are far fewer.

In the majority of later instances the use of wrote and writ as passive past participles is usually to demonstrate uneducated speech, however, there are a few instances of “writ” being used formally as in The New-York Reporter: Containing Reports of Trials and ..., Volume 1, Issue 1 by Barent Gardenier

If a will be part writ in the testator's life, though more was intended to be written, it shall be good as far as was writ.

However, this is the verbal use. The example is of those past participles being used as substantivized adjectives taken from the passive past participle.

the wrote and the writ would seem to mean “that which has been written and that which has been written”

However the lyrics aren’t illiterate and I believe that “writ” is in fact the common noun:


1.a. Something written, penned, or recorded in writing; a writing. Now rare.

1905 Westm. Gaz. 7 Oct. 4/2 The writs of the insane are generally distinguished by great length.

But, and more likely:

3.a. A formal writing or paper of any kind; a legal document or instrument.

1892 Ld. Tennyson Foresters iv. 48 Lawful King, Whose writ will run thro' all the range of life.

The context of the lyrics has an historic feel to it and the wrote and the writ adds to that.


If you're born with a love for the wrote and the writ = If you're born with a love things that are written down and the law and official documents.

Thus giving the sense of "if you are not a rebel"...

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