Which Word Wednesday: Sherbet vs. Sherbert

By June 5, 2013 language 2 Comments

tumblr_m5n39nULfK1ry7egao1_500Summer is almost here! And you know what that means: ice cream, frozen yogurt, frozen custard, that oh-so-mysterious soft serve stuff, gelato, sorbet, Italian ice, sherbet. The treats are plentiful, which is one of the best parts of summer.

But that last item on the list is a tricky fellow; some call it sherbet (one r), others call it sherbert (two rs). hmm. Is this a ta-may-to/to-ma-to thing? Is it a misspelling? Is it the same frozen treat with two names? Today’s Which Word Wednesday is on the hunt!

A look to the New Oxford American Dictionary provides an entry only for sherbet, one r:

noun :: a frozen dessert made with fruit juice added to milk or cream, egg white, or gelatin

Sherbert (two rs) does not have its own entry, but it does get an honorable mention in sherbet’s entry:

The tendency to insert an r into the second syllable of sherbet is common; the misspelling sherbert accounts for around a quarter of the citations for the word in the Oxford English Corpus.

So there you have it. The proper name and pronunciation of this frozen dessert is the one r variety, sherbet. If you’ve been adding an extra r to your sherbet, you’ll just have to retrain your brain. My suggestion? Eat lots of sherbet and talk about it as much as possible until you can say it properly. I bet that would work. And proper language is worth the sacrifice.

What’s my WWW verdict? Frozen treats are tasty, no matter what you call them. (But I prefer mine to be spelled and spoken correctly; it aids in digestion.)

What’s your verdict? Do you add an extra r in your sherbet? What’s your favorite summer treat? Do share in the comments.


Check out previous Which Word Wednesday verdicts here.

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