Participle, preposition, whatever

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A political cartoon reacting to the discussion of who wrote one of Donald Trump's tweets:

Another John, John Dryden, gets blamed for the original "zombie rule" about no-clause-final-prepositions — see "Hot Dryden-on-Johnson action" 5/1/2007, or "'Latin-obsessed 17th century introverts'?", 8/26/2010.

But it seems that the cartoonist, Jack Ohman, takes the rap for substituting participle for preposition in this cartoon's caption.

[h/t Julian Hook]



  1. cervantes said,

    December 6, 2017 @ 11:54 am

    Up with that I will not put.

  2. Ben Zimmer said,

    December 6, 2017 @ 12:00 pm

    The joke here seems to rely on the assumption that the notorious Flynn tweet (which Dowd took the blame for) also had some sort of grammatical problem. People have pointed to the use of pled instead of pleaded as some sort of Trumpian flub revealing the tweet's true author, but as I wrote in an article for The Atlantic on Sunday, lawyers use pled all the time — including Dowd himself in a 2010 quote I dug up.

  3. Yuval said,

    December 6, 2017 @ 1:50 pm

    Whoa oh @cervantes, watch your back for Luca and Enzo.

  4. cervantes said,

    December 6, 2017 @ 1:53 pm

    Well, I don't know that every reader can be expected to know the full history of this blog. Perhaps there should be a permanent list of proscriptions posted in the sidebar.

  5. J.W. Brewer said,

    December 6, 2017 @ 1:56 pm

    I had no idea there was a taboo against "pled" in journalistic stylebooks. Given that the fixed phrase(s) "pleaded/pled guilty/not guilty" is only going to come up for journalists in stories about legal proceedings, it seems above and beyond the ordinary degree of stupid prescriptivism to reject the standard usage of the legal profession itself. (One might also note that we in the legal profession have more than our fair share of prescriptivists, peevers, and snoots internally, so any usage common enough to have survived that ought to be doubly immune from additional outside peevery.)

  6. Saurs said,

    December 6, 2017 @ 10:42 pm

    "Pleaded" reads, written or spoken, as pedantic journo-speak in American English, and follows from the same principles — bad, boring, unnimble, and unimaginatively bookish ones — that ruthlessly encourage "dreamed" over "dreamt" in all instances. Next we'll be describing ourselves as "disorientated." I recall a brief blip in the Clinton administration where people were sexually HARE-essed, as opposed to her-ASSED. 'Twas a dark time.

  7. Coby Lubliner said,

    December 7, 2017 @ 9:28 am

    I wonder if "plead" is the only instance of an English verb (and a non-Germanic one to boot) that was originally weak and became strong. And I wonder if its use by lawyers is akin to their use of the suffix -or where normal English has -er.

  8. Rodger C said,

    December 7, 2017 @ 9:36 am

    "He dove into the water." Germanic, though.

  9. DaveK said,

    December 7, 2017 @ 11:06 am

    @Coby Lubliner: there's also "snuck" as past tense of "sneak" and "shat" past tense of the verb "to shit" ( but with that one it might be hard to find out the original form)

  10. Sally Thomason said,

    December 7, 2017 @ 11:07 am

    @Cory Lubliner: No, "plead" isn't the only example — there's also "wear", which used to be weak but changed its past tense to "wore" by analogy to rhyming verbs like "swear/swore", "bear/bore", "tear/tore".

  11. Faldone said,

    December 7, 2017 @ 12:13 pm

    Plead/pled is not necessarily strong. Compare teach/taught. The -d ending could be the weak past tense ending. Irregular, yes, but strong not necessarily.

  12. R. Fenwick said,

    December 8, 2017 @ 2:11 am


    I recall a brief blip in the Clinton administration where people were sexually HARE-essed, as opposed to her-ASSED. 'Twas a dark time.

    American English sometimes does strange things to stress positioning relative to other dialects. One I've particularly noticed is detail, which seems to be [dəˈteɪl] for most AmE speakers where [ˈdiːteɪl] is more usual elsewhere.

    Or as countless people have put it, putting the [ɛɱˈfæsəs] on the wrong [sɪˈlæbl̩].

  13. cliff arroyo said,

    December 8, 2017 @ 4:33 am

    As a native American English speaker (with a small but non-trivial amount of experience in journalism) both pleaded and pled sound fine.

    I don't remember thisexample in a stylebook but when a stylebook does give a ruling most writers just learn it, follow it and don't think about it anymore and eventually it seems normal.

    One weak past form I could never get behind is 'lighted'. To me 'lit' always sounds better and 'lighted' (as a verb) sounds really opposite-of-euphonic (apparently dysphonic is already taken for something else).

  14. Jerry Friedman said,

    December 8, 2017 @ 1:56 pm

    R. Fenwick: Are you sure that other dialects of English don't do strange things relative to American English?

    There are certainly many differences in stress placement. As for "detail", though, American dictionaries give "deTAIL" first, but my feeling is that that's an old-fashioned minority pronunciation now, and most people say "DEtail". I blame the military.

    cliff arroyo: I'm with you on "lit" versus "lighted", whether it refers to illuminating, igniting, or landing.

    To hijack the thread still more, here in New Mexico "light something on fire" seems to have mostly replaced "set something on fire" and "set fire to something" among young people. Is that regional? Throughout the U.S.? A recency illusion?

  15. KevinM said,

    December 8, 2017 @ 3:21 pm

    So you think the form "lighted" deserves a dusty death?

  16. Christian Weisgerber said,

    December 8, 2017 @ 4:23 pm

    If the German forms (scheißen – schiss – geschissen) are conservative, then the expected forms of the English verb are shite – shit – shit(ten). Dictionaries quote the Old English verb as scītan, long i, which would agree with this. Looks like a regular Class I strong verb, cf. bite – bit – bitten.

  17. Jerry Friedman said,

    December 8, 2017 @ 7:30 pm

    KevinM: Yes, but in a clean place.

  18. Alon said,

    December 10, 2017 @ 5:14 pm

    @Jerry Friedman: do you have the same objection to 'alighted'?

    What about 'delighted', which is not etymologically from 'light' but has been reshaped under its influence?

  19. Jerry Friedman said,

    December 11, 2017 @ 10:38 am

    Alon: I don't mind either "alit" or "alighted", and of course there's no alternative to "delighted" that anyone could prefer.

    When I said I was with cliff arroyo, who mentioned "euphony", I didn't mean that the sequence /ˈlaɪtəd/ sounds cacophonous to me—sorry if I gave that impression. I just like "lit the candle" better because it's the form I'm used to.

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