The Grammar Belle

Spiffing y'all up, one typo at a time

It hit me like a lead pipe.

Hey, y’all! You won’t find me writing much about football on my blog. I enjoy it, especially the college variety and ESPECIALLY when my SMU Mustangs win (59–49 this weekend over Temple). Go, Ponies!

Football season in Dallas, Texas, has been a roller coaster as long as I can remember. My most beloved team (my Mustangs) was handed the first and likely only NCAA Death Penalty back in the late 1980s. Recent interviews with folks on that sanctions committee have revealed that they all anticipated we’d be back to full, Heisman-winning strength in 10 years. 30 years later . . . we’re still hanging on by our fingernails most seasons.

The Cowboys have given Dallasites more heartburn and heartache than even my Mustangs. Tom, Roger, and Tex were replaced by Jimmy, Troy, and Jerry. Yes, we had a few Super Bowls tossed in there. But we’ve also been stuck in mediocrity (with a record of 132–132 since 1997), lived through a disastrous Super Bowl-hosting gig, and experienced other sad, real-life events too tragic to be mentioned in this lighthearted blog.

This weekend, Cowboys fans were dealt a particularly hard blow: a last-second touchdown by the Lions to give them a 31–30 win. (One small bright Dallas light is that the Lions’ QB, the maker of said touchdown, is Dallas’s own Matthew Stafford. Or perhaps that makes it more painful.)

Reading the Monday-morning QB articles added to my pain . . . in more ways than you can imagine. For example:


How did you do on this quiz?

The word “lead,” is one that gives even seasoned writers fits. And it’s one that I HAVE to check and check again every time I use it. The verb, in its present tense, is “lead” and it’s pronounced with a long e sound.

I lead my team.

In the past tense, as in last Sunday, it’s spelled “led” and pronounced with a short e sound. It has to be spelled differently so we can tell the difference between what’s happening today and what happened in the past. Since it’s spelled like “red” and rhymes with “red,” I’ll make it red.

Stafford led his team to victory. Dangit.

The word “lead” can ALSO be pronounced with a short e sound. But just because it rhymes with “led” doesn’t mean it’s interchangeable with “led.” That “lead,” the short e one, refers to the middle of a pencil, the material from which certain pipes are made, and a bullet/projectile.

Got it? Good! Just make sure you check and recheck when you write about someone leading someone else or something in the past. And please forward this to your favorite Monday-morning quarterbacks, sports writers, and the like.

Something just occurred to me:

Each day I read (long e) the paper.
Yesterday I read (short e) the paper.

Crappo. All together now: English is one jacked-up language.

6 comments on “It hit me like a lead pipe.

  1. outlawmama
    October 31, 2013

    I always wonder about the Mustangs’ fans! Lead the way.

  2. Yvonne
    October 31, 2013

    You hit the nail on the head. (rhymes with “lead” uh,.. or “led”)

  3. ystreeter
    November 5, 2013

    Any chance of you doing a page on affect/effect? These two words still give me problems. If you’ve already tacked them, let me know (or post on FB) THANK YOU!!!

    • The Grammar Belle
      November 6, 2013

      I haven’t yet, but I promise to. Soon! And I’ll be certain to let you know when I do. 🙂 Thanks for reading, Yvonne!

  4. ystreeter
    November 5, 2013

    That’s “tackled” them…. Tacky lapse in self-editing.

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