Thursday, February 19, 2009

I'm No Lincoln II.

Eric Asimov in his New York Times column, The Pour, started it this time around. John Hansell voiced his approval and I offered my contrary view. Since then, also predictably, Kevin Erskine has weighed in on the side of the status quo.

If you go back and read my post last week about this, be sure to read the comments. Davin de Kergommeaux points out that spelling whiskey according to where the whiskey is made makes about as much sense as spelling and distinguishing between "tires" and "tyres" also based on country of origin.

The main justification for the traditional approach is that it is the traditional approach and a matter of respect. The main argument in favor of change is that the traditional approach leads inevitably to the mistaken belief that "whisky" and "whiskey" are actually two different words with two different meanings. Where snobbery comes in is that almost everyone who erroneously maintains that they are two different words is a scotch snob.


Kers said...

Predictable? Me???

I prefer "consistent".

Don't worry, I STILL like you, Chuck!

Chuck Cowdery said...

No pejorative was intended and my affection for you is likewise undiminished.

sku said...

Wow, Kevin and Chuck, I feel the love...if Bourbon and Scotch (whiskey and whisky) can be friends, well then maybe there is hope for the Middle East after all. ;)

mong said...

At the risk of feeling even sillier, arguing about the letter "e"s importance in my glass of liquid lovely (but I do care, oh the shame),,

I wonder why, when we talk about a particular spirit, say Makers Mark, we all agree it should be spelt whisky, as that's how they like to spell it, and as it's their whisky we respect their wishes,
so why does this not apply when referring to the whiskies of a particular country, when that country has a preferred spelling?

What's the difference?

Am off now to pour myself a big glass, from whichever bottle comes to hand, and to enjoy it regardless of the spelling!


or is it slainte?

and is it uisge beatha or uisce beatha?

this dram tastes mighty good regardless

Davin de Kergommeaux said...

But Mong,

Most countries don't have a preferred spelling. The average Scot, some ex-patriates excluded, didn't give a hoot until foreigners recently started telling them they should. Most still don't. Scots have used both spellings and so have Canadians. In fact I once saw both used in a single Seagram's ad. Seagram's you may recall, owned several Scottish distilleries.

In fact there are so many contrary arguments it is just a total non-issue except to newbies who have nothing else to hang their hat on to prove their whisky knowledge so take the opportunity to protest vociferously when someone spells it "wrong." Have you ever heard any credible whisky expert, and I don't mean the guys who re-cycle press releases, ever state categorically it must be spelt one way or the other?

And if there is such a thing as respect for tradition or preferred spellings, then surely the Irish must favour whisky without an 'e'. Read on.

From Gavin Smith's latest whisky-pages: “Classic Expressions has recently published its latest facsimile edition of a rare and long out of print whisky title in the shape of Truths About Whisky. Truths About Whisky was issued in 1878 by the four principal Dublin distillers, namely John Jameson & Sons, William Jameson & Co (of Marrowbone Lane), John Power & Sons and George Roe & Co. As noted in the first chapter, “The four firms of whisky distillers by whom this book is published ... have for the last two years been engaged in an endeavour to place some check upon the practices of the fraudulent traders by whom silent spirit, variously disguised and flavoured, is sold under the name of Whisky." As co-publisher Ian Buxton says, "Note the spelling of 'whisky,' even in Ireland! 'Silent spirit' is, of course, a reference to grain whisky and the book is an impassioned defence of malt whisky. It includes details on 'The Qualities and Popularity of genuine Dublin Whisky,'”

So those who claim to be respecting tradition or country preferences would spell Irish whisky without an ‘e’ then, wouldn’t they? And those who claim American distillers use the ‘e’ because of Irish influence would be, well, full of baloney.

Chuck Cowdery said...

To belatedly address Mong's comment, Maker's Mark Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky is a proper name, so I spell it the same way they do, as I would with any proper name. Whiskey is not a proper name. It is a word with alternate spellings and I know of no grammar rule that says a trade association can claim a preferred spelling, especially when honoring their request tends to create confusion.