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I want to write the phrase "take a rain cheque" and am British.

Should I therefore use the British spelling of the word cheque, or respect the baseball origin of the phrase "rain check" and use the American spelling?

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If the term "rain cheque" exists in British English, then use that. If the term is not well understood in Britain you could use either, but probably "rain check" (with quotes) would be a good way to introduce the term. –  Robusto Sep 4 '12 at 18:53
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It is a well known phrase in Britain, but I don't believe its etymology is as well known. I think most British people would write it as it sounds - rain check - but what's correct? –  John Catterfeld Sep 4 '12 at 19:18
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There are good arguments for either spelling in this situation, so either is acceptable. –  Cerberus Sep 4 '12 at 19:25
    
I've never seen it spelled "rain cheque", and as it's an American expression [albeit with no native British equivalent I can think of] I'd always spell it check. –  Andrew Leach Sep 4 '12 at 19:39
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Wow! I've only ever seen "rain cheque". Good to learn that this is etymologically wrong. I shall have to start writing "rain check" from now on. –  user16269 Sep 4 '12 at 20:55

1 Answer 1

up vote 10 down vote accepted

The entry in the OED is for rain check and it describes the spelling with cheque as rare. The derivation has nothing to do with cheques issued by banks. The check part is 'A token, usually a memorandum of receipt, a ticket, or piece of metal duly stamped or numbered, used for the purpose of identification, or as evidence of ownership or title'. If you write rain check, you have etymology and usage on your side.

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How do British people spell the word meaning a token you get showing ownership? Do British people write "coat cheque" or "coat check"? (Or "hat cheque/check", etc.) –  Jay Sep 4 '12 at 20:10
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@Jay: If we used it all, I think it would be 'check'. 'Cheque' is limited to the piece of paper used for financial transactions. –  Barrie England Sep 4 '12 at 20:26
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@Jay, they spell it "ticket". –  Peter Taylor Sep 4 '12 at 22:00
    
I would not have guessed that the 'check' part meant a metal token. I thought it simply meant that you weren't able to do what you wanted - a check on your activities - because of the rain: as in 'rained off' or 'rain stopped play'. –  Robin Michael Sep 5 '12 at 1:39
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@RobinMichael - no, it was a free pass for another game if the match was rained off –  mgb Sep 5 '12 at 5:11

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