Posted by: Ivy Wigmore
CIO, commonly misspelled words, ESL, word meanings
Which is correct?
The Scottish tradition of first-footing involves being the first person to step across a friend or neighbor’s _______ after midnight on January 1.
Oddly enough, I was inclined to think that threshhold must be the correct spelling because last month I discovered that withhold is correct, rather than withold. If you double the h in one, I thought, you probably double it in both. But no, it’s withhold and threshold. So, um, I was wrong both times. Just one more of those little idiosyncrasies that make English such a challenging language — even for native speakers.
A threshold, by the way, is a point of entry, a barrier that must be crossed. Specifically, it’s a door sill, although the meaning has generalized. According to folklore etymology, it was originally two words, thresh hold, meaning a barrier holding in the chaff flooring. A good story, but according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, thresh originally meant to tread, so it’s probably more akin to a stair tread.
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