Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: wring.


Part A: Inflection: “wring/wrung/wrung.” The past-tense and past-participial forms of “wring” (= to squeeze or twist) are sometimes erroneously written “rung” — e.g.: “Cathy Turner had to guard the gold medal around her neck closely last night. If she wasn’t careful, someone might have rung [read ‘wrung’] her neck with it.” Mary Kay Cabot, “Turner’s Gold Draws Heat,” Plain Dealer (Cleveland), 25 Feb. 1994, at D1. The erroneous past form *”wringed” sometimes appears — e.g.: “She wringed [read ‘wrung’] her hands as she prepared for the piercing.” Lisa Jones Townsel, “Third Time’s the Charm,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 12 Sept. 1998, at 40. Still another erroneous form, always as the past tense and not as a past participle, is *”wrang” — e.g.: “He wrang [read ‘wrung’] every ounce of bluesy longing out of ‘I Want a Little Girl.'” Joe DeChick, “Better Than Ever: CNY Jazz Orchestra,” Syracuse Herald-J., 16 Apr. 1997, at B4. Language-Change Index — (1) “rung” misused for “wrung”: Stage 1; (2) *”wringed” for “wrung”: Stage 1; (3) *”wrang” for “wrung”: Stage 1. Part B: “Hand-wringing.” This phrase is sometimes mangled into *”hand-ringing” — e.g.: “Mary Tyler Moore now gets by without the haunting, hand-ringing [read ‘hand-wringing’] insecurity that once dogged her everywhere she went.” Bob Thompson, “Rediscovering Mary,” Toronto Sun, 10 Mar. 1996, at S3. Language-Change Index — *”hand-ringing” for “hand-wringing”: Stage 1. *Invariably inferior form. For information about the Language-Change Index click here. Quotation of the Day: “The manner in which one writes is the sure test of one’s education. Fairly good speech may be acquired by constant association with the cultured, but writing which is correct and in good taste can be acquired only by practice in writing done in connection with equally careful reading.” W.C. Morrow, The Logic of Punctuation 4 (1926).
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