Gantlet and Gauntlet

While working on edits and changes and proofing for The Dragons of Rosgarth, a proofer asked me to correct several instances of “gauntlet” to “gantlet.”

I like words, and I like language, but that was the first time I’d run across the word gantlet, which it turns out is the original phrase for “run the gantlet,” while gauntlet is what you use when you “throw down the gauntlet.”

From The Grammarist:

Gantlet vs. gauntlet

Gantlet was the original spelling of the word referring to a form of punishment in which people armed with sticks or other weapons arrange themselves in two lines and beat a person forced to run between them. It came from the earlier English word gantlope, which in turn comes from the Swedish gatlopp.1 Gauntlet is an alternative spelling of gantlet, but it also has several definitions of its own, mostly related to gloves.

Gantlet was the preferred spelling in early use of the phrase run the gauntlet—meaning to suffer punishment by gantlet or to endure an onslaught or ordeal—but gauntlet prevailed by the 18th century. Today, most writers use gauntlet, though gantlet, which is especially common in American English, is not incorrect.

The phrase throw down the gauntlet, meaning to issue or accept a challenge, uses gauntlet in its glove-related sense. It derives from the practice among medieval knights of challenging each other to duels by throwing down their gauntlets. So gantlet does not work as an alternative spelling here.

The two are pronounced essentially identically. My own predispositions would probably make me want to pronounce them as:

  • gantlet: gont-let
  • gauntlet: gawnt-let

In any case, I decided to go with the gantlet spelling, since I also favor the AP usage for colons (short version, if it’s a complete stand-alone sentence after a colon, capitalize; if not, not, unless of course it’s a proper noun). But then, the AP style guide does not insist on the use of the Oxford comma, and I do: In game writing, rules writing, and game rules writing clarity is key. Plus: see what I did there? Oxford comma in my explanation of the Oxford comma AND a capital letter after a colon because it could stand on its own as a full sentence.

I have to finish this book before stuff like the above takes over my brain.

2 thoughts on “Gantlet and Gauntlet

  1. I have never, ever heard of “gantlet” before nor seen it in any book or anything else, at any time, ever. I don’t believe what that editor told you. You’d use the word “gauntlet” in both cases.

    1. I looked it up in the AP style guide. It’s a real thing. The word is still used as technical language in the railroad industry as well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *