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I read recently that was describing a cavalry, full of "horses champing on their bits, eager to rush forwards into the fray." I have always known it as "chomping". Is "champing" a typo? Is "chomping" or "champing" correct?

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No, but why is this question accepted? Cause it is asking about whether or not there is a correct form or not, like mine's is. –  Thursagen Jun 2 '11 at 6:02
    
For a start, there's some nuance to the way the two different spellings of fairy are used. –  Marcin Jun 2 '11 at 6:57
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And there's a nuance as to the ways chewing sound made by horses are spelt, and the determination of the correctness or incorrectness of both is the ratio behind my question. –  Thursagen Jun 2 '11 at 6:59
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Do I have your right hand of forgiveness?(And I'm not being sarcastic) –  Thursagen Jun 2 '11 at 7:04
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@Marcin, Oh,great! Do you like programming? –  Thursagen Jun 2 '11 at 7:12
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1 Answer

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Chomping is the typo, according to M-W:

Origin of CHOMP: alteration of champ

First Known Use: 1581

I grew up around horses and mostly heard "chomp", though.

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"typo", in 1581? –  Brennan Vincent Jun 2 '11 at 6:33
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You mean, you heard the horses going "chomp, chomp, chomp" as they chewed, or the people around you said that the horses were "chomping"? She was only a jockey's daughter but all the horse manure... –  Malvolio Jun 2 '11 at 6:47
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@Brennan: Type was still a pretty new technology, so maybe errors were more common ;) –  Marcin Jun 2 '11 at 7:10
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Besides, those 16th century typewriters were really unreliable. –  Christi Jun 2 '11 at 8:47
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In all seriousness, there was no standardized spelling in English in 1581. Dictionaries were just getting started. Also, the Great Vowel shift (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Vowel_Shift) had just happened. Thus "champing" may well be an archaic spelling that, at the time, was actually pronounced the way we pronounce "chomping" today (compare with the 'a' sound we use in "law"). So it could be argued that actually saying "champing" (with a short a sound) is wrong. –  T.E.D. Jun 2 '11 at 14:55
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