I’ve been thinking more about this “shone” business. I came across a blog post by a YA writer saying the same thing I said, and what struck me was that she, like me, only came across the American mispronunciation when she heard someone reading. I guess “shone” is not a word that crops up a lot in speech, where we use the past tense more sparingly than in text. And now I’m wondering if there are a ton more past tenses that Americans can’t say right, only I don’t know about it because I rarely hear them reading aloud.
Idly checking out related subjects on the web, I also happened – if I may make fun of myself for a moment – on a discussion of “Canadian raising” which pointed out that Canadians can’t hear it while Americans can. This is absolutely borne out in my experience. My students all laugh when I say “out and about” but when I ask them to say it themselves, it sounds to me as if we’re pronouncing it exactly the same. So it’s true: if you say it in the Canadian way, you’re missing something.