Tuesday, November 30, 2004

The cat was sat on the mat

What is wrong with the above phrase? To most people, I expect, the answer would be a resounding: "nothing", but to me, it sounds wrong. Sometimes I wonder if I'm completely bonkers, but I'm sure that it *should* be: "the cat was sitting on the mat". I would *always* use this construction.

A few years ago, if I heard someone saying "I was sat..." (or, similarly, "I was stood...") I would assume that they were a Northerner, as I thought that this was Northern dialect, but it seems that this is not the case nowadays and most of my fellow Southern English friends (some of whom I consider as pedantic as me) have used this version.

The other day, a girl got on the train and motioned to sit opposite us at a table seat, asking the Big Fella in a cut-glass RP accent: "Are you sat here?" - it just sounded soooooo wrong!

I guess the questions which arise from this are:
  1. Do I have any grounds for thinking that this usage *used to be* confined to Northern England or am I just making this up?
  2. Is it considered correct English to say "I was sat..." rather than "I was sitting..."? (I have searched for the answer in books of English usage and on the internet to no avail)
  3. (and most importantly) Why? Why do I care? Why does it bother me so much?

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