I'm reading a novel set in present-day England, and it's sprinkled with uses of the construction in the title. This is far from the first time I've encountered this in BrE writing, along with general references to a "tooth comb" (I believe A. Conan Doyle used that).

I've never seen this in AmE, always fine-tooth (or fine-toothed) comb. Is there any justification for this in BrE? Is it a regionalism?

Searching for examples of the phrase has proven futile because search engines seem to normalize it -- all I get are the AmE version.


1 Answer 1


It appears to be a common mistake that has become a variant of the more common, correct spelling fine-tooth comb:

Fine Toothcomb - Fine-tooth Comb:

  • Brush your teeth, but don’t comb them. Although the spelling “fine toothcomb” is common enough to be listed as a variant in dictionaries, it looks pretty silly to people who prefer the traditional expression used to describe examining a territory or subject minutely: going over it with a “fine-tooth comb“—a comb with fine teeth. Some people prefer “fine-toothed comb.” (Common Errors in English Usage)

From : Quite Literally: Problem Words and how to Use Them:

  • fine-tooth comb not fine-toothed comb or fine toothcomb/tooth-comb. Most experts recommend fine-tooth comb ...
  • It's nice that they agree with each other.
    – Hot Licks
    Jan 21, 2016 at 22:26

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