Aldus Manutius.

Erin Maglaque (/məˈglɑk/) reviews Aldus Manutius: The Invention of the Publisher by Oren Margolis for the LRB (14 December 2023; archived), from which I learned a lot about that interesting fellow:

Aldus Manutius​ is the bibliophile’s bibliophile. Between 1495 and his death in 1515, Aldus issued from his Venice press more first editions of classical texts than had ever been published before, and more than anyone has published since. With his punchcutter, Francesco Griffo, he designed an elegant new typeface for printing in Greek (a serious technical challenge) as well as the italic font. Aldus shrunk the book: from the large-format volume kept in the library, to a smaller, stylish text to be tucked into a pocket. As Oren Margolis puts it in his new biography, Aldus ‘unchained literature from desks and remade reading as a pastime’. He printed dozens of beautiful books, none more so than the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, the book that – by giving equal attention to nymph orgies and classical architecture – captured the libido of the Italian Renaissance.

Aldus seems to have been a difficult character. He squabbled with his workers, even alienating the great Griffo. He was an evangelist for humanist printing and had a zealot’s splenetic temper. He was chronically overworked and felt overlooked by his scholarly peers, though he could namedrop and network with the best of them. According to an earlier biographer, he was ‘almost morbidly sensitive’ about grammar and pronunciation; he got into friendship-straining arguments with Erasmus about case-endings. It’s hard not to flinch from his overweening desire to be praised. He was working himself to death and never let anyone forget it.

But I like him. I can’t help it. Anyone who has sat in the park with a paperback has Aldus to thank for freeing the book from the library, the desk, the metal chain that sometimes bound books to shelves. If you’re the sort of person who gets a quiet thrill from well-chosen punctuation, Aldus is a kindred spirit; he revived the use of the semicolon after centuries of inadequate commas. He is the secular patron saint of pedants and editors. He was so peeved by the widespread practice of shortening Latin and Greek diphthongs into long vowels that he wrote an essay about it. He is also a paragon for those of us awaiting our great second act. In his twenties and thirties, Aldus was an ordinary humanist. But then, at forty, he moved to Venice and reinvented himself as a publisher. Why did he do it? How did he become a printer so ambitious that he changed what reading meant?

Not much is known about the first, more ordinary half of Aldus’s life. He was born in Bassiano, near Rome, around 1450 (his son and grandson disagreed about the date). As an adolescent, he attended lessons with Gaspare da Verona and lectures in Rome by Domizio Calderini; he began his official humanist career as a papal secretary and lectured on the Latin classics. In the 1470s, he went to France with the Greek émigré cardinal Bessarion and studied Greek in Ferrara with Battista Guarino. Like many Renaissance scholars, Aldus worked as a tutor to the rich and powerful: around 1480, he moved to Carpi, between Modena and Mantua, where he taught the liberal arts to the local princes, Alberto and Leonello Pio. Tutoring princelings didn’t satisfy Aldus, but his connection with Carpi lasted for the rest of his life. He was granted the Pio family name, was given rural estates by the family, and asked to be buried in Carpi when he died. He dedicated books to Alberto, ‘whom I have educated and instructed since, as they say, your fingernails were soft’. Margolis argues that it was this connection with Carpi – the Pio as patrons, but also the income from his Carpi estates – that allowed Aldus to make the leap into publishing: ‘For most, the freedom to take risks and create begins with a freedom from want.’ The Carpi income provided a safety net should Aldus’s wild venture fail.

By 1490, he was in Venice. His friend, the neo-Platonist philosopher Pico della Mirandola, sent the first-ever printed edition of Homer to Aldus that year. But it’s one thing to enjoy the technical accomplishment of a printed Homer, and quite another to decide you’d like to have a go at printing one yourself. In the early 1490s, Aldus set up a printshop in the Campo Sant’Agostin and embarked on an unprecedented programme of printing Greek books. Venice was a city of printers and readers. In his World of Aldus Manutius, Martin Lowry made a rough guess that, in 1500, Venetian presses produced twenty books per member of the city’s population. There were more printshops – and more booksellers, stationers, bookbinders – in Venice than anywhere else in Europe: twice as many editions were printed there than in Paris, its closest rival. Despite the riskiness of the business, Venice was an obvious choice for a man looking to start a publishing house. It seemed to Aldus ‘another world more than a city’.

Maglaque describes the difficulty of making a go of printing (“The huge press itself was only the beginning. Paper was expensive. So too was the type, which had to be made by highly skilled metalworkers. The compositors, inkers and operators not only had to be paid wages, but also fed and housed by the master printer”), then continues:

Aldus wanted to print Greek books. With Griffo (from Bologna), he designed that beautiful new typeface for printing Greek. They didn’t model it on classical Greek epigraphy, as Janus Lascaris was doing in Florence, but instead immortalised the stylish, cursive Greek handwriting of their own friends. Many Greek scholars had washed up in Venice after the fall of Constantinople in 1453, and Aldus worked with them to locate Greek manuscripts that had never been published before. Giorgio Valla, who lectured on Greek poetry in the city, had a vast collection; so did Marcus Musurus, a Greek scholar from Crete. With Aldus, they commissioned Greek refugee scribes to copy out the manuscripts, working together to correct and edit them, and then print them in Griffo’s new typeface. One historian has suggested that Aldus and Griffo’s preference for the look of handwriting reflects a lingering love of manuscript, even in the age of sculpted metal type.

Beautiful books, but faulty financials. Even among the learned humanists of the day, very few could read Greek: a limited market for such an expensive proposition. The first book printed at the Aldine Press, Constantine Lascaris’s Grammatica Graeca, was published in 1495. In the preface, Aldus gives two justifications for printing it. Many people want to learn Greek, he writes, and this book will help them. A marketer’s logic: if Aldus could create more Greek readers, he would sell more Greek books. […]

The manuscripts of ancient Greek texts were mouldering away in monks’ libraries, Aldus wrote, in their ‘harsh and gloomy prisons’. He would ‘liberate’ them. ‘After lying hidden for so many centuries,’ he claimed, ‘mutilated and covered in filth, they come to life again through my strenuous labours.’ With his work, ‘all barbarism will be finally swept away.’ With his friends at the press he founded the Neakademia club, where all members would speak Greek or incur a fine. The collected fines were used to purchase the wine, for all those men ‘who are already … dreaming of the New Academy and have all but established it after the fashion of Plato’. So what if it was a pretentious drinking society? He would make antiquity live again, at the Aldine Press.

In his prefaces, complaint is the major key. ‘You can scarcely believe how busy I am,’ he writes. He didn’t have time to eat, to piss. ‘Sometimes we are so hard-pressed … that it is not even possible to wipe our nose.’ He was a new Sisyphus, a new Hercules. ‘My single-handed efforts have done more to help the world of letters than everyone else put together.’ That might be a bit of a stretch, but the range of Greek editions he published, many within the first decade of the press’s operation, is astonishing. Aristotle’s Natural Philosophy (1497), Metaphysics (1497), Moral Philosophy (1498). Thucydides’ Histories (1502), Herodotus’ Histories (1502). Plays by Aristophanes (1498), Sophocles (1502), Euripides (1503). The Iliad and the Odyssey (1504). The works of the Greek orators (Demosthenes in 1504, anthologies in 1513). The complete works of Plato (1513).

He was so busy that he hung a sign on his door: ‘Whoever you are,’ he warned, ‘Aldus insists on asking you to state whatever you want from him as briefly as possible, and then immediately to leave.’ There was one exception. ‘Unless, that is, you have come, like Hercules, when Atlas was exhausted, to shoulder the load.’ Everywhere he looked was work and more work: corrupted manuscripts, fragments; nothing was complete, nothing was fully preserved. He was cleaning away the accumulated errors of centuries; he compared editions, sought out the best manuscripts. As an editor, Aldus said he had to ‘assume [the author’s] mindset’, and perform a philological ventriloquism. When presented with a worm-eaten manuscript: what would Euripides have written? To rescue every single work of antiquity from obscurity: the scale of the work was endless, self-obliterating. […]

The turn of the century marked another shift in Aldus’s career: from Greek classics to Latin; and to the new, pocket-sized octavo editions that would make him famous (and eminently counterfeitable). In 1501, he printed the works of Virgil in this new format. He called the book an enchiridion, the Greek word for dagger. A little weapon concealed in the pocket. Margolis says that this new form was also part of the humanist project of redemption: ‘Good literature in the hands of the Christian people … was a weapon of reform.’ A weapon, or a prayer: until Aldus, the only octavo-sized books were devotional works. But to carry Virgil around in your pocket was its own kind of devotion. […]

Margolis’s central claim is that Aldus invented the idea and identity of a publisher. An Aldine book – its size, its beautiful typeface, even its grumbling prefaces – ‘stood for something; it stood for what Aldus stood for.’ The owner of an Aldine owned a little of Aldus: a little of his reforming zeal, a little of his scholarly evangelism, a little of his beauty and precision. Aldus not only changed what it meant to read, but what it meant to publish books. Printing was no longer a mechanical process only, a question of manual skill and labour. In the Virgil edition of 1501, printed in Griffo’s new italic type, Aldus wrote an epigram ‘In Praise of the Punchcutter’: ‘Behold, Aldus, who gave them to the Greeks,/now gives to the Latins letters carved/by the Daedalean hands of Francesco of Bologna.’ Aldus was the mind and Griffo the hands, but a gulf opened between publisher and craftsman. The underappreciated Griffo went to work for the rival Soncino Press. Yet even without him, the Aldine aesthetic – the small format, the spare slant of the type, the vast white margins – came to stand for the Aldine project. If Penguin orange means something to you, or Fitzcarraldo blue: that’s partly Aldus’s doing.

She discusses the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, “perhaps the most famous book of the Italian Renaissance, and certainly one of the most erotic. Margolis calls it the ‘pornographic Pevsner guide to the Renaissance antiquarian imaginary’,” and ends:

Aldus died in 1515. In a funeral oration, Giovanni Battista Egnazio mourned the ‘loss and death of a man who almost alone raised up and restored literature when it was in a state of collapse and almost given up as lost’. He had become gravely ill, Egnazio said, adding the finishing touches to the Aldine myth, as ‘a result of excessive work and long hours of toil into the night’. At Aldus’s funeral in San Paternian, his body was laid out surrounded by stacks of books. But the corpse was soon lost, buried in an unremembered grave. Aldus had once promised young students of Latin that fame could be theirs, if only they would commit long hours to study: ‘You too, if you can grow pale in studying learned works, I promise, will raise your name to the stars.’ There was no funeral monument in Carpi as he wished, but there was something better: Aldines in Utopia. Thomas More imagined the volumes of ‘Aristophanes, Homer and Euripides’ to be found there, and ‘also Sophocles, in the smallish type of Aldus’.

We discussed Aldus’s semicolons in 2019; the original of “In Praise of the Punchcutter” reads “Qui graiis dedit Aldus, en latinis / Dat nunc grammata scalpta dædaleis / Francisci manibus Bononiensis,” and as you can see, it’s not technically an epigram but a series of three hendecasyllables.


  1. he was ‘almost morbidly sensitive’ about grammar and pronunciation

    But then in the first quoted paragraph:

    Aldus shrunk the book

    This seems to be increasingly common, in newspapers and elsewhere. Has shrunk displaced shrank as the simple past tense, even in pubs such as the LRB?

  2. Stu Clayton says

    A cautious answer to your question: not so many folks nowadays are morbidly sensitive about grammar and pronunciation. Since Aldus it’s been downhill all the way. The ride was fun, but once was enough.

    No point now in being racked by Calculus, just see a urologist.

  3. I pin the blame squarely on Rick Moranis.

  4. What are you on about? Both are equally good and “official” forms of the past tense; check any dictionary (e.g., AHD), and if you want a historical summary, here’s the OED:

    past tense Old English scranc (plural scruncon), Middle English schrank, Middle English schranke, 1500s–1600s shranke, 1600s– shrank; Middle English schronk, Middle English–1600s shronke, 1500s shroncke, shroonke, shrounke, 1500s–1600s shronk, shrun(c)ke, 1600s– shrunk

    (I omit Scottish weak forms like schrinket, not wanting to upset you further.)

  5. Here’s a sample citation:

    1819 Isaac shrunk together, and was silent.
    W. Scott, Ivanhoe vol. III. iii. 81

    Is Scott official enough for you?

  6. “… more first editions of classical texts than had ever been published before…” is impossible on two separate bases, one definitional, the other numerical.

  7. Stu Clayton says

    Not so. Let’s consider 1000 “classical texts” , no one of which is a copy of the other, and no one of which has been printed.

    Various publishers come along now and print 300 of those texts for the first time, in other words create first print editions of them. At a later time, publisher B prints the other 700 texts.

    B has printed more first edtions than had ever been printed before.

  8. Hmm, I was sternly taught shrink, shrank, shrunk, along with swim, swam, swum, bring, brang, brung and so on. I’ve never seen “it shrunk” as anything but a mistake.

    Walter Scott was a Scot, therefore of barbarous tongue.

  9. Hmm, I was sternly taught shrink, shrank, shrunk

    People are sternly taught all sorts of nonsense. If you wish to cling to Miss Thistlebottom’s stern strictures while closing your eyes to the facts of language, go right ahead, but I’m surprised anyone could read this blog for long and not realize that such “learning” is worthless. There is no One Right Way.

  10. I don’t disagree, but in all honesty this is the first I’ve heard that ‘shrunk’ is OK as a simple past tense. I’m genuinely surprised.

  11. Fair enough!

  12. J.W. Brewer says

    Scott tells us something about the usage of his own time, and maybe not even that much since he often wrote in a pseudo-archaic register. But we are not to be governed by the defunct fads of two centuries ago. Simple-past “shrank” was per the google n-gram viewer coming into vogue in the latter decades of Scott’s life and by the 1850’s had become the majority variant. If you look at their numbers for let’s say 40 years ago (the year I finished high school), “I shrank” was about 6x as common as “I shrunk” and “she shrank” was almost 15x as common as “she shrunk.” Which is not to say that longstanding minority variants are Wrong Wrong Wrong, but it’s sometimes good to have self-awareness that they are, in fact, minority variants.

    ETA: MWDEU, hardly Miss Thistlebottom’s favorite authority, has an entry (under “shrink”) that defends simple-past “shrunk” from the charge of being non-standard while also saying that it was quite significantly less common in speech and even rarer in writing.

  13. David Marjanović says

    …thus solving the riddle:

    Italians suffering in the heat: “Fa caldo! Fa caldo!”
    American tourist: “Who the fuck is Aldo?”

    bring, brang, brung

    Haaaang on a second.

    Dance with the one what brung ya!

  14. >bring brang brung

    Was that meant humorously or in earnest?

  15. J.W. Brewer says

    Obviously market-share disputes between rival forms are not always resolved on purely aesthetic grounds, but the ablaut pattern in shrink, shrank, shrunk is so lovely that it has been repurposed simply for its euphony outside the domain of strong-verb conjugation, with the locus classicus probably being “Ker-plink, Ker-plank, Ker-plunk” in _Blueberries for Sal_. Which interestingly enough turns out to actually be spelled “kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk” in McCloskey’s text, but is widely remembered in the “ker-” version instead. Which seems evidence of some interesting phenomenon but I don’t know exactly what. The book is set in Maine but I don’t think adults who read it aloud to children typically try to put on a non-rhotic “Down East” accent if that isn’t their native accent.

  16. I would never make a joke on this blog. It would be unseemly and wrong.

  17. friendship-straining arguments with Erasmus about case-endings

    Is there a more detailed account of these disputes available somewhere?

  18. The “earlier biographer” is Lowry.

  19. Which is not to say that longstanding minority variants are Wrong Wrong Wrong, but it’s sometimes good to have self-awareness that they are, in fact, minority variants.

    Sure, I would never deny that “shrunk” is now in the minority — I was objecting to the idea that it was Wrong Wrong Wrong.

  20. more detailed account

    Maybe not. Lowry’s disputed case-ending.

    Erasmus’s joke about the grammarians’ fights over such things and description of his friend Aldus.

  21. The full passage from Lowry:

    There is one trait in Aldus’ character of which we can be absolutely sure and which, though it cannot by itself explain why he began printing, may shed some light on the working of his mind and on the principle which ruled him. He was fascinated by language: not by language as the expression of man’s rational faculty, though he would no doubt have paid lip-service to that fashionable idea, but by language in itself, as a pattern of sounds with music in its rhythms and riches in its variety. Perhaps as a result of this, perhaps because of the many years he had spent in the school-room, he was almost morbidly sensitive about grammatical accuracy and correct pronunciation. Erasmus joked light-heartedly about this: in the Praise of Folly, written just after his departure from Italy, he showed how the Goddess sustained the grammarians in their wild rejoicings over a new inscription and their furious quarrels over a disputed case-ending. No trouble was too much in the fight to settle these imaginery issues: Aldus alone had written five grammars. The quip was not maliciously intended, and Aldus would probably not have been displeased by it. Only a year later he was writing that he had never yet produced a book that satisfied him, and would gladly redeem every error he had made for a gold piece. And Erasmus’ joke was true in spirit, if not yet in fact. Aldus published his Latin Grammar for the first time in 1493, mentioning a Greek Grammar, grammatical exercises, and various shorter works which he hoped would soon follow. The Latin Grammar was reissued in 1501, 1508 and 1514, with additions, alterations in layout, the change of a word here or there: the Greek Grammar was still unpublished at the time of its author’s death, and was seen through the press by his friend Musurus; all but one of the others seem to have perished, as Aldus wished. We can only agree with Erasmus, that Aldus was meticulous to a fault. But in a publisher, it might prove to be a good fault.

    (“imaginery” sic. Oh the irony.)

  22. In Praise of Folly is pretty funny. Here is the reference to Aldus:

    It becomes a matter to be put to the test of battle, when someone makes a conjunction of a word which belongs in the bailiwick of the adverbs. Thanks to this, there are as many grammars as there are grammarians—nay, more; for my friend Aldus single-handed produced grammars on more than five occasions. He has overlooked no work of the kind, however barbarously and tediously written; he has expounded each, and criticized each; jealous of everybody who may be toiling, however ineptly, in the same field, and pitiably in fear that, with some one else snatching the glory, his labor of many years will be lost. Do you prefer to call this madness or folly? It is no great matter to me; only confess that it is done with my assistance; so that a creature otherwise by far the most wretched of all is raised to such happiness that he would not wish to exchange his lot for that of the kings of Persia.

    The whole section on grammarians is worth reading.

  23. I just asked my wife (Gen X, impeccable breeding) for past tense of shrink and she immediately replied “shrink, shrank, shrunk”.

    So “shrunk” may not be Wrong, Wrong, Wrong but if you use it in public in New England we will notice and may not invite you to our garden parties.

  24. ‘…called the book an enchiridion, the Greek word for dagger. A little weapon concealed in the pocket.’

    That’s a bit silly. It can mean ‘dagger’, but it also means ‘handbook/manual’, amongst other things…

  25. Trond Engen says

    A handy!

  26. Stu Clayton says

    Back when, anglophones were wise not to take up “handy” instead of “cellphone” (or whatever they call it). Today we know that it is not a handy thing to have around, but a brain-eating parasite.

  27. Lars Mathiesen (he/him/his) says

    I just spotted a hed an hour ago with en brast drøm (‘a broken dream’). Never mind the context, but I have the verb as briste/brast/bristet. (It used to be briste/brast/brusten, as still in Swedish, but that was before my time. There’s an antiquated collocation brustne øjne about just-dead people, but I don’t think YPNAD will recognize it. [And hans øjne brast even less]. The verb is, needless to say, cognate with E burst).

    So it’s not just iggernate furriners who use preterite for participle. EHEU. (The fully declined strong participle is moribund in Danish in any case, with weak endings taking over. But I couldn’t make myself write brustet as the citation form though I find old citations for var brustet i gråd = ‘had burst into tears’. [That’ the “supine,” with no gender or number concord, but in Danish [unlike Swedish] that’s fairly new and always identical to the neuter singular participle. Even earlier I’d expect hun var brusten i gråd [people didn’t write about men crying back then]).

    (Some people will also pretend that bringe/brang/brunget is valid, but the Proto-G mixture of strong stem and weak endings still survives, making it bringe/bragte/bragt. Wikt claims that the verb is borrowed from MLG, but as far as I can tell MLG didn’t preserve the dental ending in the preterite and participle and I’d expect something like brang/brukken which would be even more irregular and be hard to distinguish from forms of brække = ‘break’ [except that the latter is a proper well behaved weak verb when you’re not playing games]).

  28. I just asked my wife (Gen X, impeccable breeding) for past tense of shrink and she immediately replied “shrink, shrank, shrunk”.

    Yes, those are the forms I use as well. Most people do. Other people use other forms.

  29. Isn’t “shrank” the past-tense transitive and “shrunk” the past-tense intransitive?
    I shrank the Iliad to nutshell size. My brain is shrunk (shrunken).

  30. So how do you call a person who left psychoanalysis “shrank” or “shrunk”?

  31. Shrunken.

  32. Haun Sassy, in “My brain is (has?) shrunk”, that’s the past participle, the same form as in “I have shrunk the Iliad.” Maybe you meant “My brain shrunk”? But note that “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” uses it transitively.

    “Shrunken”, like “drunken” or “sunken”, is used as an adjective more than a verb form.

  33. January First-of-May says

    Isn’t “shrank” the past-tense transitive and “shrunk” the past-tense intransitive?

    Same – to me the transitive is “shrink, shrank, shrunk” and the intransitive is “shrink, shrunk, shrunken”. (I’m not sure offhand if you can form the transitive past participle; it’s been a while since I studied English grammar well enough to have an idea which kind of contexts it could show up in.)
    I imagine for some people the movie title (which uses “shrunk”) is the most familiar example for the transitive past tense…

    As pointed out by Keith Ivey, you’d expect the same pattern for “sink”, but there AFAICT “sank” is used for both transitive and intransitive, and “sunken” is usually an adjective.
    I don’t think “drink” is used intransitively often; offhand I’d expect the same division between the transitive and intransitive forms as given above for “shrink” (in fact more strongly so in this case), but it might be different in actual use to the extent that there is any. (In particular, Ford Prefect’s pun requires the transitivity-invariant pattern.)

  34. I don’t think “drink” is used intransitively often

    “He drinks to forget.”
    “He never drank before noon.”
    “I have drunk with the best of them.”

    Without any complement: “I gave the dog some water. It drank.”

  35. “Drink” can act as a verb of motion:

    “I drank my way through every bottle in the house”

  36. A bib I saw a baby wear once: “My mother drinks because I cry” (parodying a Country song or something, I presume.)

  37. January First-of-May says

    …OK, so what I was thinking of as transitive/intransitive is perhaps better defined as active/passive. (There might be an even better term for it – perhaps subject/object?)

    The category assignments roughly correspond for shrink and for sink, so I misunderstood (and/or too narrowly understood) what the label was referring to, projected it to drink as well (where it was inapplicable due to the relatively frequent omitted-object version that is active but synchronically intransitive), and forgot to confirm my definitions.

  38. @January First-of-May: That construction does exist for drink also, but it’s not very common.

    This wine drinks well.

    sounds like foodie-speak. Ithink the usual terminology is that this is the inchoative (versus causative) construction for a (pseudo-)ergative/labile/either-way verb.

  39. J.W. Brewer says

    “When the wine drinks itself … when the skull speaks, when the clock strikes the right time — only then will you find the tunnel that lead’s to the Red Bull’s lair.” Thus one of the non-human characters in Peter Beagle’s _The Last Unicorn_. At one point back in the Eighties when he was my teacher Larry Horn was fascinated with pseudo-middle-voice constructions like that in English (another one was some advertising copy that said something like “this sausage practically slices itself”), although skimming his CV’s list of his published articles of the time it’s not clear to me that this fascination resulted in a publication.

  40. “The soup that eats like a meal!”

  41. @J.W. Brewer: Are you saying that, “the wine drinks itself,” is an example of the inchoative? It doesn’t seem that way to me, especially the reflexive object “itself” there. On the other hand, I’ve never been entirely sure what exactly the cat’s prophecy was supposed to mean. All the elements mentioned are, of course, relevant. However, the skull points out that the clock never strikes the right time, although that could be metaphorical. Moreover, the wine gets drunk by the skull, not by itself, although Schmendrick points out that the skull can’t possible taste or swallow anything. So maybe a different grammatical interpretation is viable, but I still don’t see it. Alternatively, maybe the cat is just excessively cryptic—as talking cats always are in fairy tales, as the cat itself states.

  42. This wine drinks well.
    The soup that eats like a meal!

    I’m sure we’ve discussed such constructions before, but I can’t find the thread.

  43. @languagehat: There was a bunch of discussion here about either-way verbs (and related topics in verb grammar). However, I had thought there was a thread where we actually talked about the drink example specifically, but that one I can’t locate.

  44. I’m sure we’ve discussed such constructions before, but I can’t find the thread.

    “Middle voice” is the search term you need. You may also be thinking of discussions on Language Log, or Wordorigins (flipped transitivity was one).

  45. Speaking of past tense and past participles:

    I often find myself saying things like “I just got bit by a mosquito”.

    I would tell anyone that “bitten” is the only correct form, but “bit” still slips out. Googling finds plenty of hits for both “bit by a mosquito” and “bitten by a mosquito”. I’m pretty sure there are other cases where this kind of thing happens.

  46. Merriam-Webster does have “also bit” for the past participle.

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