Sunday 23 May 2010

Ou Sont Les Prawns D'Antan?

The best book I know on English usage is Troublesome Words by Bill Bryson. I don't agree with all of it, mind you; I make it a point not to agree with all of anything, just in case. Yet my thoughts this morning turned to this entry.

barbecue is the only acceptable spelling in serious writing. Any journalist or other formal user of English who believes that the word is spelled barbeque or, worse still, bar-b-q is not ready for unsupervised employment.

Incidentally, a barbecue is a framework of sticks. You can cook stuff on such a structure; but the first use in English, way back in 1697, was to a barbecue bed.

[We] lay there all night, upon our Borbecu's, or frames of Sticks, raised about 3 foot from the Ground
   - William Dampier A New Voyage Round the World

Now I must dash as I'm spending the afternoon at a BB-queue.


  1. The Antipodean23 May 2010 at 13:42

    Hopefully les prawns d'antan are not on the barbie, because they can make you really sick.

    In the Antipodes, we find that if you shorten the names of things it simplifies spelling issues enormously.

  2. The Antipodean23 May 2010 at 14:28

    ps That title makes me laugh out loud every time I read it.

    Also, I realise that simplifying something enormously is, well, impossible. Extremely difficult at best. My apologies, and I blame it on the beaujolais.

  3. Ah, summertime. Bees are busy, flowers in full bloom, and the air is filled with the smell of roasting flesh, accelerants and smoking charcoal briquettes. Mmm, lovely.

  4. I can't share your liking of Troublesome Words; I found it full of unsupported assertions. Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage is more my speed.