One of the things that makes English such a great language is how versatile it is.
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As an example, it’s possible to turn many nouns or verbs into lớn adjectives by adding a -y on the kết thúc.
Things get complicated when the word ends in an “e,” though. As an example of which, people often ask if “cringey” or “cringy” is correct.
Let’s find out!
Is “cringy” or “cringey” the correct spelling?
Technically, when you form adjectives by adding a “y” khổng lồ the kết thúc of a noun or verb, you are supposed to lớn drop the “e” at the end of the word. However, perhaps because “cring” looks like it should be pronounced “king,” this word is more frequently spelled as “cringey,” & “cringey” is the version most commonly listed in dictionaries.
The final verdict is that both spellings are acceptable, although “cringey” is less likely khổng lồ get flagged as misspelled in formal writing like a school paper.
Rules for turning words into adjectives
One way to turn English words into adjectives is to lớn appkết thúc a “y” to the end of them.
Is there ice on the path? The path can be icy.
Is the pond hard khổng lồ see through? Let’s turn “murk” inkhổng lồ “murky”!
And so on.
As seen from our first example here, the rule for words that end in “e” is that you drop the “e” before you add the “y.”
That means “ice” becomes “icy,” và, at least in theory, “cringe” becomes “cringy.”
The reality, though, is not that simple.
Why “cringy” looks wrong
The problem with English is that the same combination of letters can make different sounds in different contexts.
That means, although “cringy” is technically the way you turn “cringe” into lớn an adjective sầu, some people will say it just doesn’t look right.
When spoken, for instance, “ing” is usually pronounced like the over of the word “king.” It’s the “e” in “cringe” that changes its sound, so when some people see “cringy” they think it’s wrong.
After all, if someone clings too much you’d hotline them “clingy,” (cling-ee) right?
Of course, there are also counter-examples like stingy (pronounced stinn-jee) AND dingy (din-jee).
All the same, the spelling “cringey” is the one most commonly included in dictionaries as the head word (or “main” spelling), with “cringy” delegated to an alternate spelling.
Usage & descriptivism
Contrary lớn popular belief, the job of a dictionary is actually not to lớn menu a “correct” spelling, but rather to describe actual usage.
Dictionaries shouldn’t be used to lớn prove arguments about “proper” language use. Instead, they are descriptive tools.
In linguistics, descriptivism is the word used for an approach to language that is based in how people actually use it in real life.
The alternative, where people try khổng lồ tell you what “should” be done, is prescriptivism.
In other words, dictionaries are closer to reflections of what people actually say than they are to explanations of “correct” spelling & grammar.
This also, more or less, means that it doesn’t matter what’s “correct” so much as it matters what people are used khổng lồ seeing & using.
The tool that linguists use lớn determine usage over time is called an n-gram.
The technical details aren’t important here, but basically an n-gram is just a chart showing how many times a word was recorded in writing in a specific year for a certain set of texts.
Google Books has a nifty n-gram tool that uses all of Google Books (that’s a lot of words, with a large portion of published books included from 1800 lớn today), và we can compare the n-grams for cringy and cringey there to lớn see which is more widely used.
Cringy does well enough, with a decent bulge of use in the mid-1800s & a smaller uptiông xã post-2000.
The n-gram for cringey, though, shows that this spelling enjoys considerably more popularity.
In fact, “cringey” is more than 2 times more likely khổng lồ be used than “cringy,” at least in all the writing that’s recorded in Google Books.
It’s not quite a total K.O., but at least according to dictionaries and the Google Books n-gram, “cringey” is the winner of this fight.”
That said, rethành viên that these are descriptive sầu tools. They don’t really exist to lớn force people to use a specific, supposedly “correct” spelling.
That means that if you are used khổng lồ “cringy” and think “cringey” looks really strange, you can suit yourself and keep using it.
Just don’t be surprised if you’re told it’s misspelled by your e-including friends.
(Interestingly, my browser’s spell-checker doesn’t think either is a correctly-spelled word!)
Cringe-worthy: A less cringey (or cringy) alternative
If you hate the fact that there’s no right answer here, don’t give up hope.
The next time you need to lớn say something’s embarrassing or awkward, why not try the word “cringe-worthy” instead?
It means exactly the same thing, but has the benefit of not ending in a “y,” so you don’t need lớn worry about whether “cringey” or “cringy” is the correct spelling.