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Ask-A-Linguist Message Details
|Subject:||crisp vs. crispy|
|Question:||It seems that ''crispy'' is used more frequently than ''crisp'', at least in some contexts, and I'd like to understand why. I suspect that this might have something to do with difficulty of pronouncing the complex coda ''sp'', but I haven't found any corroboration. I'm even more interested in understanding the difference in usage between the two words. Although ''crispy'' may be used more frequently, its meaning seems to be narrower. One never hears of a ''crispy Autumn morning'' or a ''dry crispy Chablis''; only solid foods are ''crispy''. Moreover, there are two distinct sources of crispness in food and ''crispy'' seems to apply only to one of them. Raw fruits and vegetables are crisp because of absorption of water through osmosis and the resulting intercellular pressure, whereas cooked foods are crisp for precisely the opposite reason: surface water loss through exposure to high temperatures. While ''crisp'' is commonly applied in both cases, it seems that ''crispy'' applies only to dry crispness. (a Google search for ''crispy apple'' turns up pies, tarts, crumbles, etc., but not much raw fruit.) Why is this? My suspicion is that dry crispness is a stronger stimulus (i.e., tastes better) and therefore demands a more onomatopoeic word, and that ''crispy'' works because a plosive consonant followed by a vowel is stronger than one in word-final position. However, I have no idea what I'm talking about.|
|Reply:||I think you've answered your own question!! You've given an excellent analysis of the contexts in which the two words are used.|
|Reply From:||Susan Fischer click here to access email|