SENTENCE: It’s Alive! Creature Trods From Grave to the Stage
WHERE: New York Times headline.
CRITIQUE: This headline, sent in by a reader, has a very odd word in it: trods. Isn’t trod the past tense of tread? Isn’t saying trods the grammatical equivalent of saying walkeds?
Well, yes and no.
It struck me as possible that trod might be not only the past tense of tread, but also an admittedly obscure present-tense verb in its own right. So I looked it up in the OED, and sure enough, it’s in there, though labeled “Obs. or dial.” What does it mean? “(U.S.) To pursue a path.” Returning to the headline above, it would certainly make sense to say Creature Pursues a Path from Grave to Stage.
Even more germane, perhaps, is the most recent usage reference listed in the OED: a 1909 headline from the New York Observer, “Trodding to Self-Support,” about church finances. Not only is trod a word, with a suitable meaning; it also has a pedigree in New York newspaper headlines.
I hope this won’t be the last time a reader sends in a tip. There’s a great deal of awkward English out there just waiting to be parsed, and I can’t possibly find all of it myself. But no cheating: Engrish.com is officially off limits.