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Threshold or threshhold?

Writing for Business

Which is correct?
The Scottish tradition of first-footing involves being the first person to step across a friend or neighbor’s _______ after midnight on January 1.
a. threshold
b. threshhold


Answer: a.

Explanation:

Oddly enough, I was inclined to think that threshhold must be the correct spelling because last month I discovered that withhold is correct, rather than withold. If you double the h in one, I thought, you probably double it in both. But no, it’s withhold and threshold. So, um, I was wrong both times. Just one more of those little idiosyncrasies that make English such a challenging language — even for native speakers.

A threshold, by the way, is a point of entry, a barrier that must be crossed. Specifically, it’s a door sill, although the meaning has generalized. According to folklore etymology, it was originally two words, thresh hold, meaning a barrier holding in the chaff flooring. A good story, but according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, thresh originally meant to tread, so it’s probably more akin to a stair tread.

Follow me on Twitter @tao_of_grammar

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