Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: whet.

whet. “Whet” (= to sharpen or stimulate) commonly appears in the cliché “whet the appetite.” Unfortunately, though, “whet” is often confused with “wet” (= to moisten, dampen, or drench) — e.g.: o “More importantly, he wet [read ‘whetted’] the appetite of Atlanta and presumably much of the country for an Olympics that, at least in distances under a mile, could carry a red, white and blue tint.” Jeff Metcalfe, “Johnson Breaks Record,” Ariz. Republic, 24 June 1996, at D1. o “Even Anheuser-Busch, the game’s biggest advertiser, is hoping to wet [read ‘whet’] appetites and help it win the ‘Ad Meter’ popularity poll yet again.” Holly M. Sanders, “YouTube Cracks Super Ads Code,” N.Y. Post, 2 Feb. 2007, at 33. The error might occur in part because people tend to salivate when their appetites are stimulated; that is, the mouth becomes wet. But it’s still the wrong word. The opposite error (“whet” for “wet”) also sometimes occurs — e.g.: “To whet [read ‘wet’] the whistle, Glazer’s of New Orleans provided local libations, including a martini bar, spiced Cajun tea, and ambulance chasers.” Tara McLellan, “Hospital Puts On Nighttime Fundraiser,” Times-Picayune (New Orleans), 8 June 2008, Slidell §, at 13. Language-Change Index — (1) “wet” misused for “whet”: Stage 1; (2) “whet” misused for “wet”: Stage 1. For more information about the Language-Change Index click here. ——————– Quotation of the Day: “In our culture effective communication is nearly everybody’s business, and from politics to love rhetoric shows a power we must recognize.” John E. Jordan, Using Rhetoric 3 (1965).
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