Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Squash and quash

Smash it: Today, I've seen stories that used squashed and quashed, and they were used to mean the same thing. They don't.

I first came across quashed more than 20 years ago when I was working at the newspaper in Wilmington, N.C. A sports writer wrote that someone quashed an idea, and we were all aflutter. We'd never heard of quashed, and we all ran to the dictionary.
quash 1 (kwsh)
tr.v. quashed, quash·ing, quash·es
To set aside or annul, especially by judicial action.
[Middle English quassen, from Old French casser, quasser, from Medieval Latin quassre, alteration (influenced by quassre, to shatter) of cassre, from Latin cassus, empty, void; see kes- in Indo-European roots.]
quash 2 (kwsh)
tr.v. quashed, quash·ing, quash·es
To put down or suppress forcibly and completely: quash a rebellion.
[Middle English quashen, from Old French quasser, from Medieval Latin quassre, to shatter, from Latin; see squash2.]

You can see that quash and squash are from the same root. (And that has nothing to do with the vegetable, yuck, yuck, yuck.)
squash 2 (skwsh, skw├┤sh)
v. squashed, squash·ing, squash·es
1. To beat, squeeze, or press into a pulp or a flattened mass; crush. See Synonyms at crush.
2. To put down or suppress; quash: squash a revolt.
3. To silence or fluster, as with crushing words: squash a heckler.
1. To become crushed, flattened, or pulpy, as by pressure or impact.
2. To move with a splashing or sucking sound, as when walking through boggy ground.
a. The act or sound of squashing.
b. The fact or condition of being squashed.
2. A crushed or crowded mass: a squash of people.
3. Sports A racket game played in a closed walled court with a rubber ball.
4. Chiefly British A citrus-based soft drink.
With a squashing sound.
[Middle English squachen, from Old French esquasser, from Vulgar Latin *exquassre : Latin ex-, intensive pref.; see ex- + Latin quassre, to shatter, frequentative of quatere, to shake; see kwt- in Indo-European roots.]
squasher n.

It's like the difference between flounder and founder. Squash and quash both have their uses. You squash a bug and quash a bill in Congress.

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