July 17th, 2011



I've been having a little debate with my mother for, oh, about 22 years that I'm hoping you have some insight on. She is a German native who moved to the US 25 years ago. I was raised in New Jersey.

When she is watching soccer (aka football) on television, I will often come in the room and ask: "Who's winning?"

To which she will respond, pointedly: "Team X is leading."

She insists that the word "winning" can only be used in the sense of "the winning team," in other words- to describe someone who has already won. You cannot, in her opinion, actively be in the process of winning or losing because that fact can change at any moment. You can only be leading, or be behind, or of course you can win or lose the game once it is over.

I think this is nonsense, as does everyone else I know. I think winning can be correctly used as a synonym for leading here.

I'd love to know your thoughts on this. Which do you use/agree with? Is this a strictly American usage? Is it a generational thing? Am I totally nuts? Is she?