“They were sued with the reasoning that they were negligent, allowing terrorists to board airplanes and overtake their crews before plunging the planes into the trade center complex. …”

“In this classic serial a Russian count uses Cossacks to try to overtake 1840s California and form his own empire.” …

Michael Klossner writes: “Wiktionary.org says ‘overtake’ means to catch up with or to pass something. It specifically says ‘do not confuse with take over’.”

In the first example, even take over wouldn’t be correct, I think, although it would be closer. It was the planes, not the crews, that were taken over. The crews were overpowered.


You can lead a balloon to water …

Something that is being overtaken, unfortunately, is the correct spelling of the past tense of the verb lead (“to go before or with to show the way”). As here: “He lead them to the Promised Land, but they found it not so hot.”


The noun lead (“a heavy, comparatively soft, malleable metal”) is endangered also, apparently, but in the opposite direction:

“Returning from the margins of American politics, the Bush family is reasserting itself. This week, Monkey Bush surfaced from a self-imposed political exile to prod reluctant Republicans toward a broad immigration overhaul — which went over like a led balloon.”

The use of action as a verb went over like a lead balloon with Larry Frost of Bismarck. He sends this item from The Tennessean of Nashville:

“If we don’t action now to reduce our impact on the climate, we will see dryer lake beds and rivers. The billion dollar hunting and fishing industry could be at risk.” Action is indeed still a noun, as far as I can determine. George W. Bush might be interested to know that the speaker quoted in The Tennessean is a Democratic member of the Tennessee legislature. Bad usage is bipartisan.


Paul Nations writes: “In the foreign press, I read ‘in hospital’ while the US seems to prefer ‘in the hospital.’ I infer that both are correct but it’s strange and a little jarring to miss the ‘the.’ What is this kind of difference called?”

I have no idea. Theology is already taken.