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Is this the best way to conjugate "cheerlead"?

they cheerleaded for it just the same

"Cheerlead" becomes unrecognizable when you say "they cheerled", so I'm guessing this is why you don't conjugate it like "lead", but I cannot find any references that include conjugation of the verb. This is not the same issue as found here, since it's not about the placement of the suffix, but rather the choice of suffix.

EDIT: I think @KristinaLopez is correct, if you're speaking about literal cheerleaders, although the context here is more figurative, casting the media as "cheerleaders". If you say the media "cheered", it doesn't have the same connotation of "leading the cheering for". I suppose though "cheered" still is correct in that case, and you'd need to recast the sentence to get the word "cheerleader" into it, such as:

..., and yet they acted as cheerleaders for it just the same

  • They lead the cheering squad for it just the same. – Kit Z. Fox Jul 8 '13 at 18:14
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    Neither. Cheerleading comes from cheerleader, an agent noun; cheerleading is defined as what cheerleaders do. As a verb with incorporated object, it doesn't inflect well: *I housepainted for two months this summer, *She lawnmowed for a couple of hours before her nap, *He cheerled for two weeks before they kicked him off the squad. – John Lawler Jul 8 '13 at 18:19
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    Cheerleaders cheer. "They cheered for it just the same." – Kristina Lopez Jul 8 '13 at 18:23
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    Isn't it valid to make a verb out of any noun just like "to milk (a cow)"? If yes, why cannot one use "they cheerleadered"? – glagolig Jul 8 '13 at 19:26
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    @glagolig Only if one insists on glagoligging. – Edwin Ashworth Jul 8 '13 at 19:30
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I don't know how definitive a source it is considered, but wiktionary does give this formation as cheerleaded.

Wiktionnary:Cheerlead

Nonetheless, I agree it would be better to choose a different construction, choosing clarity over pedantry. However I think care needs to be taken here. You could chose:

"... they led the cheer just the same."

However, I'm not sure that really means quite the same. One can lead a cheer without being a cheerleader. I understand from your edit that the context is metaphorical, nonetheless, the above eliminates the metaphor, and so looses some of the original intent. Further:

"... they cheered just the same."

Doesn't mean the same thing at all. A cheerleader does not just cheer, s/he LEADS the cheers of others, partly by cheering herself/himself.

"... the were cheerleaders for it just the same."

While clunky is probably the closest I can get, conveying the sense, and retaining the metaphor.

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John Lawler is correct.

Cheerled is indeed very awkward to say.

A great choice, though perhaps inappropriate in tone, would be led cheer.

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    Sometimes the infelicitous choice is just the right option. This is about human expression, not mathematics or programming. – Robusto Jul 8 '13 at 20:33
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    And if cheerled seems strange, mayby try spelling it cheer-led. – GEdgar Jul 8 '13 at 21:11
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    Big +1, came to say the same ("led cheer"). Was also going to support cheerled precisely because of the potential mispronunciation. But practically, @GEdgar makes a good point as does JL. – hunter2 Jul 9 '13 at 5:38
  • Actually, if you don't want to sound so strange, you could say "they were responsible for cheerleading." – Simon Kuang Jul 10 '13 at 17:52
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We have a tendency in English to create useful single words out of two other words which are not necessarily the same part of speech as the resulting word.

In the case under discussion, we are considering the common tendency to create a noun out of two connected verbs that represent the function of the person then designated by the resulting noun. The unfortunate part is this: We then often try to create a sort of back formation from the resulting noun as if it were a verb. In this particular case, cheerleader was created out of cheer and leader (well, duh), meaning a person who leads the cheers in support of a team while they are playing a game against another team (and at pep rallies). Then, my goodness, here we are, trying to use cheerleader as a version of the imaginary verb cheerlead, and subsequently trying to conjugate cheerlead.

Cheerlead is not a verb. Cheerlead is not even a word. It doesn't exist. Give it up, friends.

You can lead cheers, or you can cheer. Conjugate either of those, if you like. I hope this helps.

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  • I personally like this answer best of all, but must admit that @Fraser Orr actually did find a reference for the verb that includes the past tense(s). – JeffSahol Jul 9 '13 at 19:46
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In a comment, John Lawler wrote:

Neither. Cheerleading comes from cheerleader, an agent noun; cheerleading is defined as what cheerleaders do. As a verb with incorporated object, it doesn't inflect well: *I housepainted for two months this summer, *She lawnmowed for a couple of hours before her nap, *He cheerled for two weeks before they kicked him off the squad.

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