Gantlets & Gauntlets

These days I’m running the gauntlet of writers and publishers.

Does running the gauntlet make you cringe?  God, it does me.  But not the writers and publishers of One Bullet Away and Cobra II: the Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq.  In the first, which I recently finished, the writer runs the gauntlet four times; in the second, only half read, I’ve counted eight gauntlets run.

Why does this make me cringe?  I was taught that one runs the gantlet, not the gauntlet.  You run the gantlet; you throw down the gauntlet.

The gantlet is a form of punishment, where you run between two lines of men who strike at you with sticks and such.  The gauntlet is, literally, a glove, which a knight throws to the ground at your feet to challenge you to a duel or contest of arms.

C’mon, admit it . . . isn’t that what you learned in school too?

Imagine my horror upon reading, in Merriam-Webster Online, that gauntlet is now an acceptable substitute for gantlet.  Apparently, it’s now okay to use gauntlet for both punishment and challenge, as in “run the gauntlet” and “throw down the gauntlet.”  I infer that it would be also okay to say “run the gantlet” and “throw down the gantlet,” but only variants – second cousins of deviants – would do so.

I say “now okay” because M-W Online is the 2007 edition, recently revised and updated.  So that’s now.  But what about then?  In my 1984 hardcopy edition of the AP Stylebook (the most-used reference book on my shelf), I read this:

A gantlet is a flogging ordeal, literally or figuratively.

A gauntlet is a glove.  To throw down the gauntlet means to issue a challenge.  To take up the gauntlet means to accept a challenge.

Okay, so I was right!  Two different words, two different things.  The merging of gantlet and gauntlet must must have happened some time between 1984 and this year.

Well, screw this post-1984 laxness!  I’m having none of it.  The only reason it’s now okay to use gauntlet for gantlet is because uneducated yokels do so, and their betters have given up in despair.

Not in my house, people . . . in my house, you run the gantlet!

© 2007 – 2015, Paul Woodford. All rights reserved.

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One thought on “Gantlets & Gauntlets

  • I did not know this!! Thanks for the education. One of my personal peeves is “sargent of arms” instead of the correct: “sargent at arms”…. anyway!

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