Maybe you know that Winnie the Pooh’s friend (and Kanga’s kid) is called “Roo,” but when it comes to “Rue” vs. “Roux” you might feel less confident. How do you spell “rue the day”? Or is it “roux the day”? Maybe little Roo’s birthday is “Roo day”? It’s time to get to some answers once and for all.
- To “Rue” means to deeply regret or to feel remorse. “Rue” can also be a noun referencing that deep regret, sorrow, or remorse. If you’re looking for the connection here with the French word rue, meaning “street,” there isn’t one. A shared spelling, sure, but the English version of “rue,” dating back to the 1100s, derives from an Old English word, hrēow, which came from Old High German.
- A “Roux” is a thickening agent used in sauces, soups, and stews. It’s commonly a mixture of flour and butter, but almost any cooked mixture of flour and fat will do (whatever might suit your palate). This “roux” does indeed come from French, specifically a shorthand of beurre roux, meaning “brown butter.” “Roux” came into common English usage in the late 1700s.
Thus, the correct expression is “to rue the day,” which means to bitterly regret an event that’s taken place.
You might have a “roux of the day” that a chef is excited about, but otherwise “rue” holds strong.
Bonus “rue” trivia:
“Rue” is also an herb with a storied history. Not only is it commonly referenced in Lithuanian and Ukrainian folk songs and folktales, but it was once used medicinally from ancient Rome to ancient China. Ancient Egyptians claimed rue was a gift from the gods. Having gained the nickname “The Herb of Grace,” rue was ordered to be used in cloister gardens in the 700s so that nuns and priests would keep their chastity (i.e., they used rue so they wouldn’t rue their decisions). Early Celtic traditions claimed that rue would ward off evil magic. Italian artists like Michelangelo and da Vinci were said to chew on rue to enhance their creativity. Gulliver uses it in Gulliver’s Travels as a strong aromatic to overpower offensive smells. The tales go on and on.
More than you ever wanted to know about rue? Do you have a desire to make a “roux” involving “rue” and see what happens? (I’d recommend further research before trying that one.) What little Roo would say about all of this, I don’t know, but you, at least, are fully prepared to tackle the correct spelling of these words. And there’s nothing to rue about that.
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