About The Joy of English

gaff or gaffe?

A gaff is a spear-like stick with a hook for catching fish and a gaffe is a blunder or error.

gage or gauge?

Gage is the US spelling; the British spelling is gauge.


A lot of people incorrectly spell Gandhi as Ghandi.

gasses or gases?

Two or more types of gas are gases; gasses is used to describe gassing something with gas.

Geneva conventions

It's not 'Geneva convention', but Geneva conventions. There was more than just one treaty.

geto or ghetto?

You could be forgiven for spelling it 'geto' but the correct spelling is ghetto. Why does it have such crazy spelling? It comes from Italian ghetto, which used to mean an area of a city to which Jews were restricted. My 1930 OED states: Jews' quarter in a city. The 2007 OED states: slum area of a city, especially of minority groups. That is meaning that the pioneering rap legends the Geto Boys most probably intended. I doubt that they are a Jewish rap group, but they certainly are "ghetto".

Giuseppe or Guiseppe?

You might not need to write Giuseppe too often but don't spell it 'Guiseppe' if you do.

going forward

Can we please stop using the overused and (often) meaningless phrase?

gospeller or gospeler?

gospeller (UK) gospeler (US)

goths or Goths?

The Goths were a Germanic tribe, and goths tend to wear black.

gradeable or gradable?

gradeable (UK) gradable (US)


grannie or granny?

The British still to talk about their sweet old grannie with an -ie, while Americans and Canadians prefer granny.

gray or grey?

If you are wondering, "how do you spell grey?", then the best way to remember it is to think of gray for American, and grey for (British) English.

Great Britain

The countries that make up Great Britain are: England, Scotland and Wales. If you also mean to include Northern Ireland, call it Britain or the UK. if you want to include the Republic of Ireland as well as the Isle of Man, Isle of White, the Shetland Islands, Jersey and Guernsey, then it is called the British Isles.

You might be interested to know that Brittany, in north-western France, is called Bretagne in French. Across the water is what became known as Grande Bretagne, or Great Britain in English. So the two are related.

grisly or grizzly?

Grisly means terrifying, and grizzly is a type of bear.

gruelling or grueling?

It is gruelling in British spelling and grueling in American spelling.

guerilla or guerrilla?

The American spelling is guerrilla, with -rr- and the British spelling is guerilla.

gypsy or gipsy?

The British spelling is gypsy with a -y-, with gipsy being a variant. The American spelling is gipsy – in the same way that Brithish tyre is also tire in the US.


This page last updated: 15 November 2014

Jesse Karjalainen is the author of The Joy of English: 100 conversations about the English Language, Cannibal – the language and history of the discovery of the New World, and Roanoke – the language and history of Early Colonial America.