Dot Wordsworth

Why did we ever spell jail gaol?

Two routes back to the same Latin word

[Getty Images/iStockphoto]

‘Go to jail. Go directly to jail. Do not pass Go. Do not collect £200.’ said the Community Chest card in Monopoly. I was never sure what a Community Chest was, but it seemed American, like the spelling jail.

Those who love the spelling gaol, which combines characteristics of being very English yet outlandish, might be surprised to find that the Oxford English Dictionary prefers jail.

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