or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Ringing the Changes

There I was, innocently reading a Salon.com article by Heather Havrilesky about dog-based television shows, when I was stopped in my tracks by the following sentence:

If they're going to put these dogs through the ringer, why not test their practical, real-world skills?

No! Bad Heather! Bad!

It's "wringer". You put someone through the wringer. A wringer is a device for extracting the water from freshly washed clothing. A ringer is something or someone that rings, or it's an impostor, and you can't put someone or something through one. Heather Havrilesky should know this, and even if she doesn't, or didn't, or if she just made an honest typo of the sort that a spellchecker can't detect, then there should have been another person to vet her copy and make corrections to it before it went live. There is no excuse for such mistakes in published text.

This is why I stopped paying for Salon.


"Wring", by the way, ultimately derives from Indo-European "wer-", "to turn, to bend"; which evolved into "wergh-", "to turn", which then became "wrengh-" with the same meaning, and then on to "wringen" "to wring, to press out" in Old English. "Wrung" is still the past participle of the verb in English, but it used to, a long time ago, have the preterite "wrang", because it was a strong verb, which is to say it changes tense by changing, in a usually predictable pattern, the vowel (called the ablaut, German for "off-sound"). Sing, sang, sung; ring, rang, rung; drink, drank, drunk; shrink, shrank, shrunk: strong verbs, all.


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