I know spelling can sometimes put you “through the wringer” (or is it “through the ringer”?), but it’s time to pay attention and get this right.
If you’re wringing your hands because of an alarm bell ringing, I get it. I do. But there’s a difference that we need to understand. Your hands aren’t making any noise. Go ahead. Try it. I’ll wait.
Anything happen? (Knuckles popping don’t count.)
- “Ring” – When we’re talking about the sound, the different forms should be ring/rang/rung (e.g., a bell can ring right now; yesterday, the bell rang; if you want to make it a passive bell, it was rung). I could dissect parts of speech for you, but I won’t. I feel that yawn coming. I have faith you can get this right.
- “Wring” – When we’re talking about twisting and squeezing, especially when there is something wet involved, add in that “w,” a good zigzagging letter to remind you of the crunching motion (e.g., you can wring your hands over this; yesterday, perhaps you wrung your hands over this; clothes could have been wrung out before being hung on the line).
And speaking of those clothes, let’s go back to the “through the wringer” or “through the ringer” conversation. If you feel like I’m putting you through the wringer, as in pressing and squeezing you uncomfortably, like clothes going through an old fashioned cranking mechanism to dry out laundry, then you’re making the correct association with this idiom.
No bells are involved, no cowbells, Liberty bells, jingle bells, bells that ring in the New Year, or otherwise. For whom the bell tolls is a totally different conversation. (And I’ll hold off this time about that “for whom” that I really want to dive into.)
Here’s hoping word choice decisions don’t feel like they’re putting you through the wringer, but if you feel like there’s language confusion ringing in your ears, I’m always here to help.
Happy writing, all!
Join 650+ subscribers and sign-up for my writing and editing email newsletter for more tips like this.