Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Dove vs Dived

I'll never forget my greatest belly flop. 

I was about ten years old and visiting family friends in San Diego. I grew up in Southern California and knew my way around pools and diving boards. So when we went to the local public pool and I was dared to dive from the three-meter board, I quickly clambered up the ladder and made my way to the edge. 

That's when I got scared--three meters (nearly ten feet) is pretty high for a ten-year-old. But it was my first time that high, it was a dare, and I had to do it.

Wrong decision. I froze up, and when I finally dove, I belly flopped. It was the most excruciating pain I had ever felt--even more painful than when my older brother swung a golf club and struck me in the head, but that's a different story.

Correction: Make that "when I finally dived..." As one grammar stickler pointed out to me early in my copyediting career, "dove" is a bird; "dived" is the past tense for dive. 

This is the type of correction grammar sticklers love. When I see "dove" meaning the past tense, I dutifully change it to "dived." I don't think I'll ever forget the difference, just as I'll never forget my greatest belly flop. 

("I Dive" T-shirt pictured is available here.)


  1. Finally! A mnemonic for "dived." A thousand thanks. Your favorite "anonymous" fan, jane

  2. Really? That's why I can't spell. It just sounds wrong. I'm sorry that when you dived off the high dive you belly flopped :(

  3. Good one! Sorry about that belly flop! So painful!

  4. Thanks for your comments!

    @rottrover, I feel your pain and confusion. Using "dove" for the past tense isn't necessarily wrong, it's just not as accepted by grammarians--and sticklers--as "dived." Dove is listed as a variant past-tense spelling, and that's what a lot of English speakers use. That's probably why "dived" sounds wrong, or perhaps too fussy. Feel free to use "dove," but don't be surprised if some stickler says it's wrong--just like one pointed that out to me. Good luck!

  5. Thanks words. You're very gracious. It's not easy being auditory!


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