Reading Slate Star Codex today, a sentence in a quote jumped out at me:

The changes … shined a national spotlight

In particular, the usage of “shined” over “shone” seemed very unnatural to me. As a result of doing a little research on this, both words have now completely lost any meaning. I hope that someone reads this blog post so it was all worth it.

My first stop was the entry on Wiktionary, which lists both “shined” and “shone” as equally acceptable simple past or participle forms. I didn’t think that this was quite right, so I continued my digging. A search for “shined or shone” revealed the usual mass of grammar blogs. The top result was Grammarist, which has a very short entry saying that historically, “shone” was for something emitting light, and “shined” was for polishing something, although in modern usage this is less strictly adhered to. Most other results had a similar, although not quite the same, transitive vs intransitive distinction. One even mentioned a mnemonic “rhyme”: “shone stands alone”.

I put “rhyme” in scare quotes there because in my (British English RP) accent it doesn’t rhyme at all: “shone” as in “gone” and “alone” as in “moan”. This reinforces my initial intuition that there is some British vs American difference here. Inspired by my favourite blog about such differences, Separated by a Common Language, whose post on this I only thought to search for after doing all this other research myself, I looked up the two words in a corpus:

GloWbE search for shined GloWbE search for shone

And there we have it: “shone” is proportionally much more common in British (and Commonwealth) English than it is in American. Now you should go read that SbaCL post because it’s written by someone who actually studies this stuff for a living.