When did "lead" become "lede"?

In recent months I’ve noticed the emergence of the term “lede” used by (apparent) journalism-savvy posters on various sites when referring to a news story or initial paragraph in a written piece.

I know that journalism and editing has an extensive argot of its own, and I know terms like “graf” or “stet” have been around for a while.

But I always thought the top story or paragraph was the lead item, as in, “When it bleeds, it leads.”

Does the spelling “lede” have an actual pedigree, or is it just a catchy variation that’s caught on because it sounds so knowing and authoritative? (It isn’t listed in dictionary.com, BTW.)

I had never encountered the usage before this thread, but a quick google provides:

FWIW, we spelled it “lede” back in J-school in '93.

And for a pre-1993 cite, here’s Geoffrey Chaucer’s Second Nun’s Tale (line 305):

That link stabs at the real explanation but barely touches on it. The deliberate misspelling derives from hand-written instructions to the printer, or to another editor, so as to make clear that a phrase is NOT to go into the paper. Other words are frequently deliberately misspelled as well–if I wanted to tell the printer that a headline was missing but would be supplied shortly, I wouldn’t write “Head to Come” on top of the article, for fear that the next day’s paper might have HEAD TO COME printed on top of my article. Instead, I’d spell it “Hed to Kum” which would tip the printer off that I was writing instructions, not something I wanted him to set into type. So spelling “lead” as “lede” helps to insure that an editorial comment, like “this lede needs checking” wouldn’t appear verbatim in the next day’s paper.

My dad was head proof reader on one of the major Sydney papers in the 60s (not that you’d know it by his son’s love of typos, but I digress). He still manages to enthrall me with the tales of “reader language”. It’s similar to the quoted stuff, but is spoken word - still designed to avoid confusion, but more importantly to save time.

Phillips = phillips
Philips = phIGH-lips
Thomson = tomson
Thompson = tom-puh-son
Embarrass = Embarrass r’s and esses (said as one rapid fire phrase just to remind the writer not to fall victim to common mis-spelling)

And dozens more I forget…

Never jeard of either of the above, but my understanding is that ‘lede’ was used so the typesetter would know that that section was the first graf, not something that required a one lead spacing. (‘Lead’ pronounced ‘led’, like the metal.)

I believe the deliberate misspelling goes back a century or more. My understanding was that there was a need to differentiate “lede” (the first sentence of a story) from “ledd” (the space between lines).

All the informaton about lede you could want.

Same link as **Sofis’s ** :smack: It’s a great read, though.

OK, then, what about calling a paragraph a “graf”? e.g. “Here are the key grafs” and then some important part of a newspaper story is quoted. Does this come from the same/similar lineage as “lede” ?

Cool, that almost explains why I once saw a newspaper story that “Put hedy here” as the headline :cool:

Some situations can’t be idiot-proofed.

There’s an apocryphal story, which may also be a true one (I should verify it someday) about Jimmy Carter giving a speech that some Carter-hating editor on, I believe the story goes, the Boston Globe, “temporarily” put the headline on reading MORE MUSH FROM THE WIMP, which headline supposedly made it into the next day’s paper. Anyone know if this tale has legs?

And which paper had “Put Hedy Here” in print? I’d love a cite on that.

I can beat that - pinned to my wall is a published double-page spread which contains not one but FOUR of those:

one line blue6 head

two lines
stand here


two line
blue6 quote

(To be fair this was due to the printers picking up an old version of the page, and not due to editing cock-ups but still a true howler).

Anyway, re: intentional misspellings, yes we do often do that - obviously it wasn’t done in this case but we’ll usually put dummy heads in as, say, “Two linesx of head xin herx”.

That was the Vancouver Province, several years ago. There were several weird photo captions on that page too, but I don’t recall what they were specifically.

Someone anticipating his last day at work, perhaps?

pseudotriton ruber ruber mentioned the “to kum” thing which is now almost always abbreviated TK. One of the stories behind the origin of this term, as told to me by a very experienced editor I work with, was that people used to write “will overhed” in headlines when more information was needed to top things off.

So, one time a wire service reporter was reporting on the Indy 500 and submitted the story with “Will Overhed Wins Indianapolis 500” since he didn’t know the winner when he started work on the story. But then he wrote the story and everyone it went through actually thought some guy named Will Overhed won the Indy 500, and it made it into print. The AP decided that they needed something new by that point.

As for “graf”… I think that might just be because “paragraph” is a long and clunky word.