If you eat meat, you have probably had delicious slow-cooked pork drenched in tangy, spicy sauce. This wonderful invention is called barbecue, and it descends from the traditional food ways of several cultures that found their way to the American South. In his book Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation, Michael Pollan visits the South to learn about barbecue and to try his hand at the process. Most barbecue aficionados are traditionalists, insisting that proper barbecue requires strict adherence to a uniform set of procedures and ingredients. But what about the word itself? How do you spell barbecue? Must writers adhere to barbecue, or could we use barbeque or another version of the word, instead?
The word barbecue originated in mid-17th century: from Spanish barbacoa, perhaps from Arawak barbacoa ‘wooden frame on posts’. The original sense was ‘wooden framework for sleeping on, or for storing meat or fish to be dried’.
Barbeque as noun:
Barbecue as verb:
Use of barbecue:
In today’s English, barbecue is the usual spelling of the word with several senses related to the cooking of food over open fire. It’s the spelling that tends to appear in edited writing, and it’s the one that dictionaries note first, for what that’s worth (and some don’t note any other spellings).
Their court commenced on the next Monday, as the barbacue was on a Saturday, and the candidates for governor and for Congress, as well as my competitor and myself, all attended. [A Narrative of the Life of David Crockett, Davy Crockett (1834)]
Use of barbeque:
Barbeque is a secondary spelling that appears especially often in the names of restaurants and products. It has steadily gained ground over the last few decades, but it is still far less common than barbecue overall.
Today, Brooks, 51, has two barbeque restaurants at Intercontinental Airport and one at Hobby Airport, and he has a mobile food court at the George R. Brown Convention Center. [Black Enterprise (1996)]
I stopped for a decent plate of pulled pork ($9.99) at the BBQ Pit on University Avenue before continuing on to ChuckAlek Biergarten, a spot in North Park with a great outdoor area. –The New York Times
Barbecue or barbeque:
Barbecue, barbeque, bar-b-cue, bar-b-que, and BBQ are all Anglicized variants of the Spanish word barbacoa. As nouns and verbs, they refer to a process of slow-cooking pork or other meats. Barbecue is the standard spelling in English. Barbecue occurs at a rate many times that of its variants. Barbecue is the only standard version of this word, probably because it is closest to the original Spanish barbacoa. It is also the most widely-used variant among English writers. Since barbecue and barbacoa each contain the letter C, you can use the spelling similarity as a reminder that barbecue is the correct spelling of this word.