Grammar Wednesday

This week’s musings are brought to us, for the first time, by Saintseester!  Last week, she wrote to me and said:

Three things have been bugging me, lately.  Why they are bugging me, I cannot reason.

Pleaded vs. Pled: I swear a long time ago, every used pled for the past tense, as in, “He pled guilty at his trial.”  Now, everyone uses pleaded.

Dreamed vs. Dreamt : same thing.  Dreamt sounds better to me. Which one is correct?

Finally, the proliferation of signs I see that have the word persons instead of people.   As in, persons should use the sauna at their own risk, or maximum capacity: 104 persons.   (That last one almost caused me a coronary.)   Why?  Isn’t people a perfectly good plural form of person?

Seester, I believe it’s true that I’ve asked the same questions about pleaded and pled and dreamed and dreamt (and, if memory serves, both questions came from Kizz).  Let me see if I can find the entries… hold please… ah, yes; here‘s the one for the forms of plea and here‘s where you can find a discussion about the dream/dreamt question.

As far as the persons/people debate, I’m with you.  I think of persons as being a hyper-formal form in a Law and Order or NYPD Blue sort of way, as in “the dispatcher said “there’s a break-in at the liquor store; unknown number of persons involved.”  The only time I don’t think persons sounds weird is when I’m talking to cops (and, since TCC is a sort of pre-cop school, I actually hear that plural form more than you’d guess).  I think, though, that in everyday speech – signs and placards included – people is a perfectly acceptable plural.

Happy Wednesday, Everyone!!



Filed under colleagues, frustrations, Grammar, out in the real world

3 responses to “Grammar Wednesday

  1. I’m not sure where I first read the idea that a word’s regularity depends on its frequency of use – I think it was in a book by Steven Pinker, but I’m not sure.

    The idea is that a word we use a lot gets each form stuffed into a “direct-recall” library, leading to irregular forms, while words we use less often have a base form that is in direct-recall but gets punted over to the grammar section for its forms. As a result, there will always be some words that are kind of “in between.”

    I think. 😉

  2. When I worked for daily newspapers, “pled” was a no-no, because AP style calls for “pleaded.” It’s all a matter of preference! 🙂

  3. drtombibey


    I like dreamt better too- more lyrical.

    And people sounds more personal than persons to my ear.

    I try to keep my writing as gender neutral as I can. I have the highest respect for my wife and my daughter’s academic achievements and my mom was an English teacher. At times, though, it can lead to some funny words. For example, when a manhole is a personhole, that is funny to me. (The plural sounds even worse than peopleholes, too.) Of course, maybe some folks in this world should be called personholes, but my mama the English teacher would get after me if I did.

    Dr. B

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