Usage and Grammar

Q. I just read this line in an AP news article: “Spanish stocks sunk as the country grappled with its most serious national crisis in decades.” Then I looked up sunk in the online Merriam-Webster dictionary to find that they define the word as both the past tense and past participle of sink! Please tell me CMOS is not adopting this form of language erosion. I contend that sank is the past tense of sink in the same way that shrank is the past tense of shrink. It seems that understanding of past participles versus past tense is quickly vanishing.

A. The new 17th edition of CMOS sticks with the traditional sink-sank-sunk conjugation, and sank is still the first option for past tense at Merriam-Webster online. But in future if a number of authoritative dictionaries agree that the new usage has solidified, surely you won’t want Chicago to insist on an obsolete expression. Language is a living, growing thing, not a decaying one. Best not to grieve over this!