In high dudgeon, a frequenter of this blog has called outraged attention to a news account on the Internet in which a suspect “confessed and then lead police to the crime scene.” Said frequenter’s ire can be easily discerned in the fulmination directed at the news outlet: “I don’t know who wrote this article – no ‘credit’ is given – but does your Web site have a proofreader? And does that person read and write English?! The past tense of 'to lead' is LED, not LEAD [yes, it’s pronounced the same way – in SOME cases – but the latter pronunciation is a base metal and not a verb]. Basic English, basic proofreading, basic writing.”
One can hardly improve upon this diatribe, except to point out that lead even when pronounced led can also be a verb, meaning to add the metal lead to something, e.g. “to lead gasoline,” “to lead windows,” or “to lead the seat of your pants.”
One can’t avoid some sympathy for those who misuse lead. English being what it is, there’s bound to be confusion between the past tense of lead, which is led, and the past tense of read, which is read (pronounced red, but spelled read). And I hate to even contemplate plead, whose past tense can be pleaded, pled, or plead (pronounced pled).
The name of the heavy-metal band Led Zeppelin is said to have originated when Keith Moon, drummer for The Who, predicted the new group would go over "like a lead balloon.” Bassist and keyboardist John Entwistle thought it would be "more like a lead zeppelin.” Undaunted, the new band adopted that name, changing the spelling to led in order to avoid mispronunciation.
Making no commitment as to how the following rhyming words should be pronounced, the Bard of Buffalo Bayou offers this ambiguous triplet about someone who seems either to have stolen a quantity of metal or starred in a play.
In all the papers that I read,
How eloquently your case you plead:
That you were right to take the lead.