Featured Linguist!

Jost Gippert: Our Featured Linguist!

"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more

Donate Now | Visit the Fund Drive Homepage

Amount Raised:


Still Needed:


Can anyone overtake Syntax in the Subfield Challenge ?

Grad School Challenge Leader: University of Washington

Publishing Partner: Cambridge University Press CUP Extra Publisher Login
amazon logo
More Info

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
Date: 30-Jul-2012
Other Replies:
  1. Re: crisp vs. crispy    Geoffrey Richard Sampson     (30-Jul-2012)

Back to Most Recent Questions