Earliest reference in my OED is 1951 with "lede" listed then as an alternate spelling of "lead"
The variant spelling was an old practice, well-known to Safire & the other "old hands of journalism" mentioned (such as Herb Caen), as inside-jargon – but its initial practical value came from its distinction from the 'common spellings' for similar concepts.
But Safire writes about it, in 1990, because just around then it's starting to sneak out into wider usage. Safire concludes his reporting and wordplay-around-the-word with:
But [lede] has earned its place as a variant spelling, soon to overtake the original spelling for the beginning of a news article. That's lexicographic news, but I have learned never to put the story in the lede.
I've seen in pop up increasingly on HN, and as far as I've always known it was a contraction of RTFA (from RTFM) and thus not generally a civil way to refer to an article.
(That is, the article's "safest conclusion", "that 'lede' is a romantic fiction invented by those who were nostalgic for the passing of the linotype era" is wrong. The word/spelling had genuine long use in American newsrooms, but only broke through into writing-for-the-layperson in the late 20th century.)
Perhaps looking prior to the 1900s would be a more accurate option?
EDIT: Never mind I graphed them both -> https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16388239
It’s possible it was used in UK newspapers, but I doubt that: most newspaper jargon found its way to magazines eventually (subbing markup was the same, for example). I suspect it’s purely a modern US newspaper affectation.
After looking more into it, it seems that it's a relatively recent shift in the language, quoting wikipedia:
> The ⟨c⟩ in the words Celt and Celtic was traditionally soft but since the late 19th century the hard pronunciation has also been recognized in conscious imitation of the classical Latin pronunciation of Celtae[...]
So it's just some late 19th century hipsters wanting to sound posh by randomly borrowing a foreign pronunciation rule. There's also the fact that in Gaelic the C is hard, but that's kind of adding insult to injury because "Celtic" is not a Celt word.
It falls in the same category as people insisting that the plural of "virus" is "virii" or that you have two "octopi" (both plurals being technically wrong IIRC). Given that about 50% of english vocabulary comes from french I guess these people should start using french grammar everywhere to be consistent.
Or should I say "Given that about 50% of vocabulaire anglais come from français I imagine that these folks should to start grammaire french everywhere for to be consistant"? Am I fancy enough yet?
That's a pretty caustic way of putting it. English pronunciation is known to be a mess, and applying "inapplicable" phonetic or morphological rules to words is just the way it works everywhere.
Think about it this way: we have a limited budget for language complexity. It's too much to learn and remember that certain words conjugate according to certain rules of the word's original language, so instead we say "singular -us becomes plural -i". And then people judge each other poorly for getting it wrong.
> Given that about 50% of english vocabulary comes from french I guess these people should start using french grammar everywhere to be consistent.
Honestly I don't follow this argument. English already has irregular nouns, learning a few new ones or switching around the plural forms is not unusual.
Normally words in english which have "ce" in them are not pronounced "ke". Similarly words whose singular ends with "~us" do not usually become "~i" in the plural. You don't say "one bus, two bi", "one fetus, two feti". Cherry-picking a few words that for some reason should follow latin grammar is more motivated by sounding "smart" than linguistic necessity IMO.
Memorizing which words take Latin plurals and which ones don't is work that not everyone has done. So we guess that "virus" is a second-declension Latin noun, which is correct, but now we have to also remember that it's a mass noun and therefore doesn't take a plural in Latin, but since it's not a mass noun in English it has to take a plural anyway, and therefore we get "viruses".
And when people get this wrong you can judge them poorly and accuse them of trying to sound smart.
I think 200 years is a reasonably long enough time for modern languages that I wouldn't say "recent". Modern English only just originated ~500 years ago, between 1450-1550 around Shakespeare's time.
Likewise, the "romanticists" OP refers to who changed the spelling of a different word (a news "lede", not the metal "lead") is entirely reasonable and I don't understand the author's point. Why does it matter if your perception was wrong if the word is now more uniquely identifiable and has a clearer, more concise definition?
I'm always in favor of linguistic evolution. Just because you can observe it at times shouldn't be cause for alarm.
But there's no noticable use of a soft-c when people refer to the people/ethnicity. Events like "Celtic Connections" are still with a hard-c. I have not noticed the use of soft-c at all, outside of sporting clubs of various sorts. I don't think that's a trend, it is just yet more of the inconsistency and irregularity that human languages are plagued with.
It's interesting- I didn't know that soft-c was a popular pronunciation "over there"
I never saw it spelled anything other than "lead" or spelled it myself any other way. Seeing "lede" later in life made me question what else I may have wilfilly missed - glad to learn I wasn't a complete moron through that part of my life.
Hed, dek, lede, graf, etc. were all used in drafts when I was on the morning daily newspaper in J School specifically because they'd get caught in spell check.
Still used on occasion now by people in my very semi-journalism job because absolutely everyone knows what they mean and where those spellings come from.
I was just thinking, they're using a stringly typed weak type system.
The words lede, hed, dek, and graf (the latter three being curiously absent from this article) have no other usage except in journalism, they mean exactly one thing, and there is absolutely no chance that they are words that appear in the actual story. They are spelled the way they are so you know what they are when you see them.
When you're in a fast paced business of organizing words and getting them into public hands on very short deadlines, those are useful attributes.
Things like this generally get adopted because they are useful, not because of some oddball nostalgia. Ockham's razor suggests that's what has happened here as well.
Example: for lede you get the concise definition, even what "bury the lede" means https://i.imgur.com/2jcKHkh.png
Often I'll type a sentence and a word or two will get the red-underline. Rather than figure out exactly which letters I transposed, I just right-click and select the word I meant to type.
But half the time Mac OS can't figure it out. So I copy my misspelling, paste into Google, and the "Did You Mean...?" feature gets it right every time.
EDIT: Graphing lede,lead shows that 'lead' has always been in the lead with respect to usage. However, expanding the corpus timeline shows almost competing usage in 1564!
Because 'lead' has many other meanings and sees more usage in entirely different contexts.
Lead rhymes with read, whereas lead rhymes with read.
They already do have different spellings - lead and led.
I thought someone had some kind of semantic exploration going on about the origins of the word lead from it's beautiful origins of Norse Viking wisdom. But alas, I was mistaken.
At least according to one of my J-school profs who had come from industry. So, uh, take all that with a grain of salt, even though I believe it to probably be true.
Edit: Wow, I must have a stocker who downvotes everything I post. This was downvoted within a minute of posting it. It's true, and relevant to the topic of the post.
Commenting on downvotes, (or upvotes for that matter, though that's less common) is a guideline violation ("Please don't comment about the voting on comments. It never does any good, and it makes boring reading.") I think its quite appropriate that violations of the guidelines get downvoted.
Yeah, I'm aware of that. But I'm willing to burn a few karma points to call this behavior out. It's really bizarre.
When I first discovered HN, I was really pleased that the tone of the discussion threads was, unlike just about every other place on the net, really civil. And it didn't even seem so much that it was the result of the moderators or the downvoters policing the tone, although that no doubt helped some. Instead, it simply seemed to be a byproduct of who the people were who posted here. They seemed to be cerebral people who could have spirited disagreements with someone, but stick to arguments based on reason and logic, without resorting to name-calling or personal attacks, as is common in so many other places. I really dug it.
And I have to say, the tone here is still pretty civil. But there seems to be a nasty passive-aggressive undercurrent that's developed in the last year or two where stories get quickly flagged into oblivion, and even the most innocuous comments, like mine above, get hammered with downvotes for no apparent reason. I again acknowledge that the Edit I added is a reason that some choose to downvote, but the original part, can someone offer a theory as to why that would attract downvotes?
But this reminded me of English’s:
Read, read? (Why not red?)
So, the best we have is the descriptivist rule: whatever it is people actually do, that's the rule. People actually write "lede" so, fine, it means what they say it means. Humpty Dumpty was right... at scale.
And that means that when people _change_ what they do, the rule changes and there's no authority to say otherwise.