Lend an ear

A reader sent a note about this headline from the Sept. 16 City & State section : Grahams loan home to Katrina victims. Some usage experts frown on “loan” as a verb, choosing “lend” instead. As Evan Jenkins’ Language Corner puts it: “A loan is what you get when someone lends you something.” Other usage experts point out that “loan” makes a perfectly fine verb. Bill Bryson in “Bryson’s Dictionary of Troublesome Words,” says that loan as a verb is “more or less standard in America,” but that British authorities do not accept “loan” as a verb. Bryson says “loan” as a verb has been used for 800 years.

The American Heritage Dictionary says “loan” as a verb is correct, but that it should be used only for physical transactions, not figurative ones.

Still, I hold with Strunk and White (“The Elements of Style”), John Bremner (“Words on Words”) and Theodore H. Bernstein (“The Careful Writer”), who prefer “lend” as the verb and “loan” as the noun. Bernstein wrote, “If your ear is not offended by ‘Loan me your pen’ or by ‘Friends, Romans, countrymen, loan me your ears,'” then you probably will gladly use “loan” as a verb.

The problem for some of us is that the past tense of “lend” is the funny-sounding “lent.” We think “loaned” sounds better than “lent.” It does sound better to our 21st century, but, unless we are writing about a financial institution’s action, we should use “lend” and its variations.

Keywords: grammar guide, language, writing

This article was originally posted by the Raleigh News & Observer, a subsidiary of The McClatchy Co.; is posted here to provide continuity; and is copyright © 2011 The News & Observer Publishing Company, which reserves the right to remove this post.