Tuesday, 13 March 2018

beseech and beseek

Yesterday's cryptic crossword clue was: Begged Hugo Best to reform.

Okay, I could get that, especially with the help of Andy's Anagram Solver. 

The answer was besought.

I don't believe I've ever before come across this verb in the past tense. It occurred to me it sounded as if it should be the past tense of beseek, as in the similar verb seek - sought - have sought.

There's no verb beseek, as far as my sketchy research could discover.

Beseech does come from the same old word as seek, though. The Online Etymology Dictionary says:
c. 1200, bisecen "to entreat, beg urgently," from Old English besecan; see be- + seek. "in contrast to the simple vb., in which the northern seek has displaced the southern seech, in the compound beseech has become the standard form" [OED]. Cognate with Old Frisian biseka, Dutch bezoeken, Old High German bisuochan. German cognate besuchen is merely "to visit". Related: Besought (OED writes that beseeched is "now regarded as incorrect"); beseeching
I'd still say beseeched. I must check out an Australian Dictionary. I'll try Macquarie...
Yes, Macquarie in 2017 still gives it as an alternative. 
verb (t) (besought or beseeched, beseeching)
1. to implore urgently.
2. to beg eagerly for: solicit.
Interestingly, the Australian dictionary gives it as a transitive verb, but both Miriam-Webster and Dictionary.com say it can also be used intransitively, and Dictionary.com gives this example: Earnestly I did I beseech, but to no avail. 

No, I can't imagine myself using it as an intransitive verb, and a moderately determined internet search didn't find any such usages. (Is 15 minutes of lounging around at my computer to check out a couple of sites a 'determined' search?)

Oh well, off to bed to dream about words.

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