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Gloves come off over headline's use of 'gantlet'

Gauntlet-trophy Readers have thrown down the gauntlet over the use of “gantlet” in the headline on Tom Curwen’s Column One article about the torment of Seth Walsh.

These readers are convinced that the headline, “A gay teenager’s daily gantlet,” should have read “gauntlet.”

However, the headline is correct.

The Times' style guide explains the difference between the two words:

A “gantlet” is a flogging ordeal, literally or figuratively. A person may run a gantlet. A “gauntlet” is a glove. To throw down the gauntlet means to issue a challenge. To take up the gauntlet means to accept a challenge.

Grammarian Patricia T. O’Conner gives a fuller explanation on her Grammarphobia blog:

“Gantlet” originally came from a Swedish word similar to “lane,” and referred to the parallel lines involved in an old form of military punishment. Someone forced to “run the gantlet” was made to run between parallel lines of his colleagues, who would hit him with clubs or switches as he passed.
A “gauntlet” (French word) was a heavy, armored glove worn by a knight. As a challenge to fight, the knight would toss his glove to the ground (“throw down the gauntlet”). The opponent accepting the challenge was said to “pick up the gauntlet.”

O'Conner also noted, as did one reader, that there is a separate definition of "gantlet" in railroad terminology.

Assistant Managing Editor Henry Fuhrmann, who oversees The Times' copy desks, was happy to discuss the headline. “First, even when we disagree, we’re grateful to have such passionate word people among our readers; they keep us on our toes," he said. "We believe it best to stick with the distinctions, and two spellings, called for by our stylebook. Had we used ‘gauntlet’ in this case, I know we would have heard from equally passionate readers about that choice.

“We would hate to retire a perfectly fine word -- one that in this case was just right for the occasion -- but we may have to think twice about using ‘gantlet’ in the future, at least in headlines.”

The Chicago Tribune faced a similar outcry from readers when it used "gantlet" in a headline last year.

USC and UCLA fans may find it easy to remember that “gauntlet” is a glove. The schools’ athletic programs competed against each other in the last several years for the Lexus Gauntlet trophy -- a pewter-gilded glove.

--Deirdre Edgar

Photo: The Lexus Gauntlet. Credit: Los Angeles Times

RELATED:

Columbia Journalism Review: Gantlet/Gauntlet; Stanch/Staunch -- It all depends on 'U'

You Don't Say: Tossing the glove

 

 
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Comments (29)

“We would hate to retire a perfectly fine word -- one that in this case was just right for the occasion -- but we may have to think twice about using ‘gantlet’ in the future, at least in headlines.” -- Assistant Managing Editor Henry Fuhrmann

Translation: Our audience isn't literate enough, so we'll just continue to dumb things down. Idiocracy for all!

Please, don't lower your standards just because some people in your audience aren't terribly well-read.

When I was a child, if I read a word I didn't know, my mother would make me look it up in the dictionary. Perhaps the Times audience could be encouraged to do the same?

Let's all now remember that the word NONE is singular. As a contraction of NO ONE one should ALWAYS use the singular; ie none is ever chosen to run a gantlet for dropping a gauntlet.

The fine distinctions between similar words are part of the beauty of language. Cheers to the Times.

Actually, the Oxford English Dictionary doesn't even have a listing for 'gantlet.' The word 'gauntlet' is used for both the glove and 'running the gaunlet.' A truer word would have been 'gantlope,' which has the meaning you used. By the way, the idea of 'running the gauntlet' goes back to 1676, hardly recent usage.

One would argue that the accepted contemporary proper usage is "Guantlet"

It is derived from "gantlet" true but language is an evolving process, therefore "gauntlet" is the accepted term.

Sounds to me like it was wrong the first time and now you're trying to back into it being right.......... What did you know and when you did you know it, LA Times???

Doing a bit of the Google shows that "Gantlet" is outmoded, and that "Gauntlet" has been used in English since the Thirty Years War. Nice try, Times, hire a freaking proofreader, ok?

Hooray! I knew it was correct when I saw it and was so pleased that the Times got it right. It's not surprising that you took heat for your grammatical correctness, and I'm so pleased that you turned that into an opportunity for a lesson. Thanks. :-)

It is refreshing to note that there are some literate people still working for the Times. And, I have been informed of my previously improper use of "gaunlet."

I had a similar reaction to the use of the word "gantlet". I was wondering how the LA Times could make such an obvious blunder. But this is the Times. Even a rookie journalist will not make such an obvious mistake on a headline. So I looked it up and was satisfied with the distinction. The Times use of the word was correct. The Times shouldn't think twice before using the word gantlet in the future.

You can put some of the blame on that Clint Eastwood film "The Gauntlet" (1977), which used the word incorrectly its title and script.

And just how many people, these days, read books or even have a dictionary handy for moments like this. Have you seen some of the various postings on websites. Some didn't even know there was such a word. I doubt if any have dictionaries, let alone a thesaurus handy. When you're not sure of a word, even the slightest bit, you can still look it up online before posting a challenge to a copy editor. Embarrassing just a bit, maybe? Oh well...the dumbing down of America continues. And I'm not even a college or university graduate, though I did attend for a couple of years. My basics were taught in the 6o's and reinforced at home. I found this article an interesting indicator of what's to come, unfortunately. Looking up the word before posting a comment for all to see would have saved one from public disgrace. A copy of The Elements of Style is still on my bookshelf. Your's perhaps? No? Quite affordable these days and worth the price. Reading books will also help, yet who has the time, I guess. Interesting times we live in.

"The British government gave few details on the Friday night rescue attempt, a former United Nations worker who headed a $150-million project attempting to strengthen local economies for the U.S. aid group Development Alternatives Inc."

What is grammatically incorrect in this sentence?

So, in other words, you can possibly set off a gantlet by throwing down the gauntlet, right?

Now if we can get people to quit saying and writing: "He ran the entire gantlet."

If the Times is so concerned about word precision, then will you please stop using the word "disinterested" when you mean "UNinterested"?

Uninterested means having no interest. DISinterested means being impartial. I want a judge to be disinterested in my case, and I'm uninterested in comic book movies.

Got it?


I can see that a pedantic writer or sub might replace 'Gauntlet' in a headline with 'Gantlet', the former not being strictly correct. I can also see that the public might respond negatively, for I might suppose that I am a typical reader, and I have oft seen 'gauntlet' used in that sense, but as for 'gantlet', I could not have sworn it was even a word.

Gentlemen, don't treat us as though you are explaining the difference between 'lemon' and 'melon' to some backwoods halfwits. People know that a gauntlet is a glove. Your usage is archaic, and no enormity would be committed in retiring it.

Gantlet, Gauntlet...lets call the whole thing off...

Thank you for this. I, too, was one of the confused ones. To be honest, I had never heard, or read, of "gantlet" before although I had heard the phrase about running. I guess I always thought they were saying "gauntlet". Hey, I suppose that means the old Clint Eastwood movie has the wrong word, huh??? Seriously, many thanks for the enlightenment.

Bless you. Several dictionaries have given up on the distinction between "gantlet" and "gauntlet," but they're different words, with different meanings and derivations.

Keep up the fight.

I was amused by the controversy about your use of the word gantlet, which you indeed used correctly. Still, your assistant managing editor Henry Fuhrmann fretted over its continued use. “We would hate to retire a perfectly fine word -- one that in this case was just right for the occasion -- but we may have to think twice about using ‘gantlet’ in the future, at least in headlines.”

How niggardly of you.

As a few posters have pointed out, gauntlet in the sense of "a prescribed form of ritualized assault" has been used for centuries. Only recently (in the last 20 years or so) have I heard anyone claiming that "gantlet" is the correct term for this. Similarly, only in recent years (with the rise of the internet and illiteracies pertaining thereto) have I heard anyone actually argue that irregardless, "free reign," predominately, "to all intensive purposes," or other demonstrable errors are correct. Funny how as illiteracy broadens, its adherents have started to argue "language changes" or "everyone says it that way" as a defense for being just plain wrong.

You can't "gild" anything with pewter. It'd probably be a felony.

How many times have you heard or read about someone who is "Chomping at the bit"?

"Champing" is the correct word, but years of laziness and ignorance have won out. Idiocracy, indeed.

In Olde Englande, one only had to get his point across to be considered a successful communicator. Guess we're headed back that way...

Gantlet seems very archaic.
Many are forgiven not knowing the meaning.

This might be an appropriate place to point out that the L.A. Times routinely uses the word "fewer" in expressions where "less" is called for: "fewer than two gallons of milk" or "fewer than 20% of the population", for example. These sound kind of wrong, don't they? Well, that's because they are wrong. I guess the Times style guide is using the rule of thumb that "fewer" must be used with countable objects. However, even though the above expressions contain numbers, they don't deal with countable objects, but rather mass quantities. Which is why "fewer" sounds weird. (By the way, I just made up those examples, but you'll find similar ones in real articles pretty frequently).

In 1951, as a senior at Oakridge High School, in Oakridge, Oregon, the difference The difference between gantlet and gauntlet came up in an English class. As an addictive reader I happened to know the difference and explained it to the "teacher," a lady of many years who obviously loathed the fact that a student knew something she did not. Stepping to the foot deep Webster's at the back of the room, I showed her the entries and, according to the phonetic key, the difference in pronunciation, flat a for gantlet, a longer diphthong for gauntlet. Whereupon, she misread the phonetic key to salvage, lamely, her superiority. In the so-called "class will," the composers of this nonsense still got it wrong, saying that I bequeathed my "gantlet" to Ms. Harms, an impossibility.

I guess they are going to have to rename the 1977 Clint Eastwood film, "The Gauntlet", the title of which refers to the parallel rows of firing cops that Eastwood and Sandra Locke had to drive through in order to make it to the steps of the courthouse so Locke could testify in a mob trial. Maybe the invisible man in the chair can pass the word to Clint . . .

I agree that gauntlet has, over the years, gained (grudging?) acceptance as an alternate form of gantlet, but gantlet is really the correct and best word for an ordeal, something you run. So please, dear Times, don't rethink it. Stick to your guns.

And while we're at it, please do rethink "millenniums." I choke whenever I see it. All those for millennia, which has been used for millennia, raise your hands and throw down your gauntlets!


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