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Is there any difference in usage between the idioms "through the ringer" and "through the wringer"? As I have found out they are pretty similar (for example here and here) but I have no idea when to use one instead of the other.

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The underlying image is of clothes being dried out by being squeezed through a mangle (or wringer). The correct form is thus "put through the wringer", with "ringer" only appearing when the the phrase heard, but the wrong word is written down. RINGER and WRINGER are homophones (they sound exactly alike) but mean different things.

  • Actually, I'm sure there's some group of people somewhere who pronounce the words differently. – Hot Licks Jun 10 '17 at 19:25
  • @Hot Licks While they might be pronounced differently in different areas or in different dialects, I suspect they'd remain as homophones. The "w" in "wringer" simply isn't pronounced in Standard English. It derives from Old English wringan, to squeeze. The spelling of "wringer" retained the "w", even when it was no longer pronounced. Cf wrong, wrung/rung (quite different words), etc. – Robin Hamilton Jun 10 '17 at 19:45
  • Further ... "ring" ( as in "ring a bell") derives from Old English hringan, to ring. There, the "h" sound had dropped out before spelling (sort of) stabilized, so it's not present in the current spelling of the word. – Robin Hamilton Jun 10 '17 at 19:54
  • The correct procedure here is to close-vote, not endorse with an 'answer'. – Edwin Ashworth Jun 10 '17 at 20:08
  • @Edwin Ashworth Um ... I think Hot Licks raised a plausible possibility, even if it is (in my view) wrong. "close-vote" (I'll have to look that up) would, presumably, simply abolish the original observation. Or am I wrong in this? Still learning the site conventions ... – Robin Hamilton Jun 10 '17 at 20:23

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