A few dates into my relationship with my now-husband, we were chatting in his car and he finished a thought with “If I hadda known.” Say what? “If I hadda known,” he repeated. Insufferable language snob that I am, I couldn’t resist pointing out that hadda doesn’t work as a contraction. Shoulda, woulda, coulda all work because they represent should have, would have, and could have respectively. Had have, on the other hand, makes no sense.
Being a very smart guy (would I date any other kind?), hubby-to-be got it right away. Looking back, he found it hard to believe that he had been using this locution all his life without realizing the error of his ways. When I visited his home town of North Bay, I quickly learned that hadda was in rampant use among both professors and plumbers. No wonder my guy had latched onto the term.
I also heard numerous instances of “should have went,” “I’ve never wrote,” and the like during my visit. Over time, I learned that this malady – inserting the past form of a verb where the past participle ought to be – afflicts the whole province of Ontario, so by no means am I singling out North Bay.
Growing up in Montreal, I never encountered this verb confusion. Honestly, not a single time. What’s going on here? Is Montreal more cultured than Toronto, or did I hang out with more cultured people in Montreal than I do in Toronto? I don’t have the answer, but I plan to find out.