spicket and spigot

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Sun Aug 23 03:02:04 UTC 2009

Herb Stahlke wrote:
> ....
> I read the following query on the ATEG list, where high school and
> college English teachers, and a few linguists, gather.  I told the
> poster I'd pass her query on to this list and let her know what we get
> in response.  Thanks for your help with this.  I don't have access to
> DARE unless I drive 50 miles round trip to Ball State, which I don't
> do a lot anymore, and I won't get there for about a week and a half
> now.
> Herb
> Dear Regional Speakers:
> I'm curious about the word "spicket."  When I recently used it in a
> story, Microsoft refused to acknowledge "spicket" as a word.  I was
> shocked!  Surely that big tall faucet-looking thing in the middle of a
> field is called a spicket.  I had (was compelled) to go to an
> encyclopedia wherein it explained that  "spicket" is a regionalism for
> "spigot."
> I am an Air Force brat and, having moved 17 times around the country
> before I was 18, have never considered my language to adhere to any
> particular region.  I called my 7 siblings who live all over the
> country--out of the eight of us--2 say "spigot" and 6  say "spicket."
> Perhaps it was the age when I acquired the word?  Perhaps Grandpa
> Leavitt sent me to the "spicket" to get water for the horses when we
> visited him in south central Utah?  Of course then it would make sense
> that I would say "carn" and "warsh" for "corn" and "wash," but I
> don't.
> I'm just wondering how many out there say spicket...
> and which regions they are from...

DARE hasn't gotten to "sp-" yet. However Vol. 5 is expected to show
"spicket" when it appears.

Others here must know much better than I about this.

"Spigot"/"spicket" has had the pronunciation with /k/ at least as a
variant since pre-1400, it seems. I think "spicket" or so is a usual
pronunciation in Scots and in various dialects of England. I think in
the US "spigot"/"spicket" is considered more usual in Southern and
Midland dialects as opposed to "faucet" or "tap" in the North (I'm sure
there is plenty of overlap).

An article in AS in 1948 asserted that the US pronunciation of
"spigot"/"spicket" was [almost] invariably /spIkEt/ [sic] wherever it
was an everyday word (apparently Southern and maybe Midland), /spIg at t/
being only a "book" pronunciation. [Whether the /E/ versus /@/ (schwa)
is claimed to be an essential distinction is not clear to me from a
quick browse of this article.] Other articles seem to show less
unanimity, but it seems the /k/ pronunciation is frequent.

MW3 shows this "spicket" ("chiefly Southern and Midland") /spIk at t/.

Where/when I grew up in MI, I think the most usual everyday word was
"faucet", but "tap" and "spigot" were also quite routine as I recall. I
hear all three in PA these days, but I can't say what the relative
frequencies are.

Me, I would say "spigot" with a /g/ (I'm a bookish person, maybe); I
can't say how often I've heard it with /k/ since I probably wouldn't
have usually noticed the difference.

-- Doug Wilson

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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