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Whisky – Whiskey – Wiskee?

One of my favorite movies is The Hunt for Red October. Lovely. You sit back and watch Cold Warriors get not just very cold, but very wet, very scared, and in a few cases very dead. In among it all an American Admiral played by Fred Dalton Thompson says, in a way that for some reason I find hard to forget (I guess that’s movie acting for you):

“This thing is going to get out of control.”

I know just how that Admiral felt. Charlie Banks of Nyack, NY USA, emails thus:

It’s an even more complicated situation than that (this is the kind of thing I learned early on back in my bartender days).

The Scots aren’t the only folks that make “whisky”… Canadian whisky is spelled the same way. Pick up a bottle of Canadian Club or Seagram’s VO and you’ll see that little “y” all by its lonesome on the end.

We Yanks, on the other hand, are of a mind with the sons of Erin in our “whiskey” habits. Woe betide the poor mixologist who would dare mix a julep or old-fashioned without something ending in an “ey.”

Congratulations. You’re now familiar with all four nationally-categorized varieties of whisk(e)y.

No Charlie. You think we all now have closure, but you don’t understand these things. Further e-mails can be expected from feuding Pacific Islands, different states in the purportedly “United” States, dissenting fragments of Northern Ireland, places in Africa we’ve none of us heard of until we learn that they have their own way of spelling “wiskee”. And can we assume that this alcoholic debate will be confined to the Anglosphere? What’s the betting the Czechs and Slovaks are already disagreeing about this? As Trevor Howard (playing Air Vice Marshal Park in another movie favourite of mine, The Battle of Britain) says, with equally mysterious memorability:

“They won’t stop now.”

I should have just e-mailed Liberty Log. I should have let David Farrer fight his own spelling battles. “This thing” has already sparked one international incident. Expect more.

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