Barbeque or Barbecue? While Grilling Meat is Hardly Contentious, the Name Certainly is

T[/drocpap]he English language is always the one people say is the hardest to learn. Americans use words that have double meaning and we can spell the same word two different ways and both are interchangeable. One example that comes up quite frequently is barbeque or barbecue. Both are used interchangeably and even often abbreviated to BBQ. We know that when someone says barbeque we get the image of grilling hot dogs over the fire or juicy brisket that has been cooking for hours. We've taken on the task to find out what the correct spelling of the word is and the etymology behind the word barbecue.

Barbeque or Barbecue? How It Started

According to Reader's Digest, "The first word to describe this familiar food preparation process, and the one that the modern versions come from, is the Spanish barbacoa. The first known use of the word barbacoa was in the 1600s when Spanish explorers used it describe the cooking styles of Taino people, who were indigenous to the the Caribbean and South America. Barbacoa is still used today to describe the cooking method of slow cooking over an open fire.

So Which Is Correct?

Technically, there is no correct answer. Spellings evolve over time, with George Washington spelling it barbicue. Eventually barbeque and barbecue became the most popular versions that you'll probably see when cracking open a bottle of barbecue sauce or reading a text where someone's bragging about their barbecued brisket. Barbecue comes from Spanish, while barbeque comes from the French phrase, barbe à queue, meaning whiskers to tail. This refers to the process of roasting a whole pig on a wooden framework.

If you look in Merriam Webster or OED, it lists barbecue as the correct spelling. However, it lists barbeque as the less common variant. Even BBQ aficionados can't decide. It's the Kansas City Barbeque Society and The North Carolina Barbecue Society.

What About the Abbreviations?

The abbreviation BBQ is spelled how it is pronounced and is not based on the French word. Some restaurants even use bar-b-que or bar-b-q just to confuse us all. While technically you are misspelling the word, no one is going to call you out, probably. In Texas, you'll commonly find it spelled BBQ or barbecue.

In the end there's nothing better than barbecuing, however you spell it.

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