Lead: Soft metal or past tense of a verb? You be the judge.


From the CNN website’s archives:

CNN’s Richard Blystone at Camp Zeist

Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah also stared straight ahead as he was found not guilty. Dressed in Libyan robes with a dark cap, he turned to Al-Megrahi and appeared to say a few words before he was lead away.

Please tell me you see what’s wrong in the above article excerpt. Can’t find it? Okay, I  choke under pressure sometimes too, so I’ll just tell you. The final sentence ends “…before he was lead away.” It should be led.

This mistake has been popping up in print and on the ’Net with alarming frequency. You know we’re all in trouble when a reputable news organization makes this error.

Lead is a chemical element in the periodic table that has the symbol Pb (Latin: plumbum) and atomic number 82. A soft, heavy, toxic and malleable poor metal, lead is bluish white when freshly cut but tarnishes to dull gray when exposed to air.  (Thanks, Wikipedia.)

Now, I know what’s hanging you up here. The past tense of READ (pronounced reed) is READ (pronounced red). And then there’s Led Zeppelin. As you’re no doubt aware, the band took its name from a comment by the Who’s Keith Moon who said that Jimmy Page’s new band would go over “like a lead balloon.” Page and his bandmates then spelled the heavy metal LEAD as LED to avoid any confusion in pronunciation. What they did in the process was confuse the whole English-speaking world.

There’s no easy way to remember this, so you’re just going to have to commit it to memory. The past tense of lead is led. Not lead. Got it?

Now go and sin thusly no more.

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