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Swinging the lead
How's it pronounced?
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Bob Bridges
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DeaconB’s question reminds me of something I’ve wondered about for years but never got around to asking.   “Lead” can be pronounced “ledd” or “leed”, depending on the meaning.   But in the old sailing days sailors would test the depth—they’d “sound”—by throwing out a weight on a line and see how deep it sank.   The weight, and sometimes the weight and line together, were called a “lead”, and the man throwing it out ahead of the vessel was a “leadsman”.   Also—I’ll throw this in free—”swinging the lead” is sometimes used as an idiom for wasting time.

So in that usage, is it “LEDD” or “LEED”?   The weight can be made of lead (though I don’t suppose it has to be), but then the leadsman has to stand out in the bows and lead the ship, too.   Anyone know?

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I don’t know that one, Bob.   However, in the days of hot lead typography, newspaper usage pronounced the start of a story a “lede” (sometimes leed) and spelt it that way as well.   In TV news, they say “If it bleeds it leads” in reference to reporting wrecks and other violent news first in the broadcast, but I’ve never seen it with the “lede” spelling.

Adding thin lead strips between slugs of cast type to increase line spacing is spelled “ledding” but the story is considered “leaded” a point or two.   You can cast type on a too-large slug with a linecaster (generic term for a Linotype) but that is “increasing the leading. “It might be noted that increasing the leading is done to make the type easier to read, while ledding is only done to adjust the length of a story for pagination.

Newspapers switched to cold typesetting in the 1960s and 1970s, and the “lede” and “ledd” spellings were generally abandoned at that time.

Linotypes were used for body type, while headlines were done on a much more manual “Ludlow.”   The Dayton Daily News is on Ludlow street, and I’ve wondered for years if that was coincidence,or if Ludlows were invented or made in Dayton

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