You’re sitting on the couch, about to settle in for some serious Netflix binge watching, when you see it.
A huge, hairy spider is skittering across the floor in front of you. As it gets closer, you raise your foot, ready to quash the little beastie in its tracks.
Hold on. You can’t quash a spider, can you? Shouldn’t you squash him? Or maybe you should squish him. What about squooshing him?
Actually, we’re not sure that last one is really a word.
What we do know is that you can’t move forward with spider annihilation until we take a closer look at all of these squishy squashy words.
To help clear things up, University of Michigan English Professor Ann Curzan checked into some past and present meanings.
“[‘Squash’] originally means to squeeze or press or crush,” she said. “By the late 18th century, it can also mean to suppress or to put down.”
Curzan said “quash” is older, and its earlier definitions were more abstract.
“As in to crush or destroy an idea or a feeling, you quash your emotions,” Curzan said. “About a hundred years later, we see it show up with the physical meaning of to smash something.”
“Squish” starts off as the sound water or mud makes, but by the 1970s, it also means to squeeze or make smaller.
And the awesome-sounding but possibly not real word “squoosh?"
Curzan said “squoosh” isn’t in the Oxford English Dictionary yet, but the Merriam-Webster and American Heritage dictionaries list it with the same basic meaning as “squish.”
“For me, [‘squoosh’] is a little more emphatic,” she said. “If you really squish it, you squoosh it.”
Squooshing sounds like the perfect solution to your spider problem, though said spider has completed his journey across your rug and has since infiltrated your bedroom.
Sorry, we didn’t mean to quash, squash, or squish your spider squooshing plans with our word origin obsession. Maybe you two can learn to coexist instead?