Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: spit.

spit. "Spit" (= to expectorate) is inflected in three possible ways: "spit / spat / spat," "spit / spat / spit," and "spit / spit / spit." Good authority can be found for the first two; the third finds less enthusiastic support. The recommendation here is to follow the first, as good writers generally do — e.g.: "On Tuesday night, he shook hands with John Hirschbeck, the umpire in whose face he had spat seven months earlier." Gordon Edes, "Exploits Finally Bring Cheer," Boston Globe, 27 Apr. 1997, at F9. Avoid "spit" as the past-tense or past-participial form. Despite authoritative support, it sounds dialectal — e.g.: "Outspoken basketball star Charles Barkley, who once spit [read 'spat'] at hecklers at a game in New Jersey and has fought critics outside the arena, has appeared frequently in ads for Nike shoes and McDonald's burgers." Skip Wollenberg, "Despite Risks, Advertisers Like Celebrities," Miami Herald (Int'l ed.), 2 July 1994, at B3. "Spit" (= to use a spit or skewer) makes "spitted" as the past tense and past participle — e.g.: o "We saw spitted small birds being barbecued at the Oktoberfest." John Gould, "Lobsters Debut and Disappear in Germany," Christian Science Monitor, 22 Nov. 1996, Home Forum §, at 17. o "Gilbert and Sullivan must be revolving like spitted chickens in their graves." Richard Farr, "Cat-Like Tread: It's Inventive, Theatrical and Shocking," Seattle Times, 7 Apr. 1997, at F5. Language-Change Index — "spit" as past tense or past participle of "spit": Stage 4. ——————– Quotation of the Day: "An ironic statement is one in which the literal and figurative meanings are opposites, as possibly in the sentence, 'The duty of the schools is to help everybody get ahead of the Joneses.'" James Sledd, "Some Notes on English Prose Style" (1959), in The Problem of Style 185, 201 (J.V. Cunningham ed., 1966).
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