Today is National Donut/Doughnut Day, apparently a relatively venerable holiday with roots in a Depression-era Salvation Army giveaway. But just how do you spell that “edible, torus-shaped piece of dough which is deep-fried and sweetened”?
The Official Dictionary Spelling of the word in question—if you’re into that sort of thing—is “doughnut.” The expedited, simplified, Americanized spelling of “donut,” as Grammarist tells us, has been around since at least the late 19th century. It didn’t catch on, though, until late in the 20th century.
Why? That’s when Massachusetts-based chain Dunkin’ Donuts first started taking off — so thank (or blame) Dunkin’ for the popularity of the “Donut” spelling.
Historically, I’ve bowed to usage on this one and spelled it “donut” (just like I use “catalog” and other Americanized spellings that are more than a century old). But Dick Wisdom has an informal survey that shows that even professional publications are torn on which spelling to prefer. Even that quintessentially British, infinitely rule-observing Reuters has been known to publish either spelling.
As a professional journalist, I’ve learned to follow the style guide and keep my private grumblings about grammar and usage confined to Twitter, email, IRC, and viva voce conversation. So for clarity, I asked: what does Jason do? (I did the same thing yesterday to decide whether or not to put “Lego” in all-caps.)
For kottke.org, Jason overwhelmingly prefers “donut.” The vast majority of “doughnut” spellings found on the site are direct quotes (which kottke.org normally does not adapt to match house style). There are some really fun posts about donuts, too, including 2003’s “A Fun Thing I’ll Do Again”:
I have tasted a donut so hot and delicious that I burned my fingers eating it but did not stop to put it down. I have eaten foie gras creme brulee and heard tale of a foie gras donut.
Still, even here, we see a stray native spelling of “doughnut”:
This video is too long and come frontloaded with too much explanation, but like a jelly doughnut, there’s some goodness in the middle
So here, like at Reuters, Wired, Gawker, and the BBC, the lesson seems to be to do what you feel.
PS: How cool is the word “torus”? Finally, a way to describe a donut’s shape without saying “donut-shaped”!