A matter of grammar spin

A report on the BBC News website this morning, about Kraft’s unsolicited takeover bid for Cadbury’s, included a sentence containing the use of a verb in a way that jarred my syntax sensibilities.

The verb is ‘spin,’ used by the BBC in the report in the sense of spinning something off, eg, a business:

spanoff

‘Span off’ when using the verb in this past tense looks most peculiar to me (and note that I’m not a grammar expert so forgive my non-use of technical terms: the correct term could be ‘past pluperfect’ for all I know).

Surely the expression should be ‘spun off’? So the sentence would then read “It spun off its drinks division as a separate business last year.” That looks better. Is it correct verb usage though?

I wondered about this on Twitter earlier. Others did, too. Alex Manchester reckons it should be ‘spun off’ as does Robin Houghton. On the other hand, Wedge thinks it’s a matter of house style.

Not so sure about house style although I see Wedge’s other point (I think) regarding regional variations and continuous past and perfect past.

‘Span’ just doesn’t look right to me. Is it my roots from southern England and, so, this region’s language and grammar-use influence?

What do you think? This is a heck of an itch to have :)

[Update @ 5:10pm UK] Just reading updates to the story on the BBC website – it’s a rapidly-developing business story – I see that someone has had a re-think about that ‘span’ past tense:

spunoff

Now it says ‘spun.’

Common sense applied.