As school is in full swing, I certainly haven’t had time to post or update my blog. I was recently assigned a project for my pedagogical grammar class focusing on word usage. Always thinking of baked goods, I had chosen to focus on the variant spellings of doughnut versus donut.
After presenting, I submitted a write up of my findings and thought I would share it with my readers. I’ve never thought about the different, variant spellings of the word, but found very interesting results. I used the Corpus of Contemporary American English for my research, showing the different usages of the word.
Reason for Research:
Recently, while writing a review for an internship, I had to contemplate which spelling of the word doughnut I should be using. I had been writing a review of the Cle Elum Bakery and wasn’t sure whether to use the spelling doughnut versus donut. My internship focuses on blog writing, which isn’t necessarily in a formal setting, so I figured either may be accepted, but wasn’t positive. I had looked up the spelling in the Fourth Edition of the Webster’s Dictionary, only to find two separate entries. One entry showed doughnut as the formal spelling, while donut was listed as the informal. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, 1993, donut is a variant spelling of doughnut. The entry for doughnut states both spellings, “doughnut also donut.” Still unsure of which spelling to choose, I decided the formal spelling, doughnut, would be fine. However, I was still curious which variation is used more often, and in which situations.
I began with looking up the number of usages within each span of 5 years through the COCA. I entered a search for doughnut in the years 1994-2011, and did the same for donut. After recording the overall number of usages, I looked over each source and viewed the context in which the spelling was used. I looked at the usage changes for each year, and then chose to focus on specific genres. I looked up the overall usage entries in each category, comparing numbers in fiction, academic, newspaper, and magazine writing.
The overall search of usage entries totaled 894 for doughnut and 417 for donut, which proved to be a fairly large difference. After looking at the usage entries in both magazines and newspapers, I noticed very little competition; doughnut is by far the spelling of choice for these publications. However, academic and fiction writing both showed a balanced number of usages. Academic writing showed doughnut used 29 times versus the 20 entries using donut. Looking at fiction entries, I found that there were 253 usages of donut and 293 for doughnut. After looking at the numbers, I spent my time inferring which publications showed patterns, if any, and which kept a balance in between.
Magazines, which most often used the doughnut spelling, included publications such as RedBook, Cosmopolitan, The Atlantic Monthly, Boy’s Life, and Shape. Based on the results, Good Housekeeping magazine only uses the variant spelling, donut, in their articles, except for an article submitted by a reader which used the formal doughnut spelling.
Academic writing didn’t show very many patterns with the spelling variants. Many pieces used donut to refer to a particular shop or shape of something, but didn’t use the spelling to refer to that actual item. Many academic pieces also used the doughnut spelling to refer to the shape of something, but that spelling also referred to the actual substance or food more frequently.
When used in fiction writing, doughnut is again used more often when referring to the physical substance. The donut spelling is used more often to refer to a donut shop or the shape of a donut.
Analysis and Discussion:
Overall, I found that most media publications such as magazines and newspapers us the doughnut spelling. I found it incredibly interesting that Good Housekeeping Magazine uses the variant spelling consistently, unlike other magazines. I found it interesting that each spelling is used during a different time, depending on what the writer is referring to. I found it surprising that doughnut is mainly used when referring to the actual food; I wonder if readers find this more appealing.
So, readers, any input? Do you find the doughnut spelling more appealing? Do you think it makes a difference?