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TWTS: Broadcasting doubt about "broadcasted"

Today, we broadcast the news. Tomorrow, we broadcast the news. And yesterday? Well, we went ahead and broadcast the news.

Or is it "broadcasted" the news?

A listener named Brian Kacos got us thinking about this one. "I always thought the past tense of 'broadcast' is 'broadcast,' but I keep hearing 'broadcasted.' Who's right?"

Everyone. This is another one of those times when everyone gets to be right.

If we asked you to guess where the verb "broadcast" came from, some of you might say it started with radio or perhaps some other form of communication technology. However, "broadcast" has its roots in agriculture. It comes from the action of scattering seeds over a field or other surface instead of planting them in rows.

In other words, the seeds are cast broadly.

Over time, "broadcast" came to mean to scatter anything widely or to tell a lot of people something. Once radio became a thing, it also comes to refer to transmission by radio. Later on, when television and the internet show up, the meaning of "broadcast" expands to include new technology.

When it comes to the past tense of "broadcast," most standard dictionaries will include both "broadcast" and "broadcasted." Currently, "broadcast" is more common than "broadcasted, so it's usually listed first.

Some style guides are more prescriptive about this. They say "broadcast" is the correct form, period. However, as noted, most standard dictionaries and usage guides provide both.

We had time to tackle two topics this week, so we decided to look into this suggestion from a listener named Nancy Pattison: "50 years ago I thought I understood the expression to be, 'All totaled.' I’m seeing it written as, 'All told.'”

To hear our discussion about "all told" and "all totaled," listen to the audio above.

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Anne Curzan is the Geneva Smitherman Collegiate Professor of English and an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor at the University of Michigan. She also holds faculty appointments in the Department of Linguistics and the School of Education.
Rebecca Kruth is the host of All Things Considered at Michigan Public. She also co-hosts Michigan Public's weekly language podcast That’s What They Say with English professor Anne Curzan.
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