Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Oh No, Look What Mr. Phonics Did

First, the mantra, new and improved:

gauge gauge gauge gauge gauge gauge gauge gauge gauge gauge gauge gauge gauge gauge gauge

It's coming a little easier now, but I can still tell it's going to take some work. But take heart, dear reader. My time will come.

The time may come as well that folks will stop letting phonics fool them into making the common mistake of using "mislead" when they mean "misled."

Some dictionaries these days don't help, as they show mislead and misled as alternate spellings of the same word, but that is simply not the case. The true difference here is a difference in tense.

Mislead is the present participle, meaning the verb is expressing current, ongoing action, as in "Some dictionaries will mislead you into using 'mislead' incorrectly."

Misled is the past participle, meaning the verb is expressing a complete action, as in "The American Heritage Dictionary misled me into misusing mislead."

Yes, it's a subtle difference that, perhaps, only the Grammar Nazi would quibble over. But since I am the Grammar Nazi, I quibble.

I blame phonics, of course. Or the contradictary English rules that cause 'lead' to be pronounced two different ways, depending on the situation it's used in. But every language has such arcane rules; you just have to learn how to apply them correctly.


carl g said...

Just today, I am ashamed to say, I looked up "February" just to be sure about my spelling. My spelling of it has always been correct, but non-phonetic pronunciations really make me doubt myself. I mean, why don't we spell nuclear as "nucular"? (Sorry for the very tired Bush joke.)

Brian Davidson said...

At least you look it up. The people who drive me nuts are those whose vocabulary exceeds their ability to spell and rather than look words up they trundle through the landscape like a Mongol horde. And as for phonics, I distinctly remember giving up on phonics in the third grade (but dutifully learning the rules because, even then, spelling was important to me) when nobody could explain to me why the word "phonics" wasn't spelled phonetically.