Squashed or Quashed?

Oh, for a dollar (or £-pound) for every time somebody gets this wrong. From your everyday man or woman on the street, to news columnists and even a few fully-fledged journalists - who really should know better - time after time you'll hear or read people getting this wrong.

So, which is correct? Is it "squashed" or "quashed"?

Note:Yes, we know that squash is also a gourd fruit, and is also a game played with rackets. We're talking about the squeezed type of squash!

Hmm, well, it depends! Let's put it this way; I think most people who incorrectly say "squash", when they should be using "quash", probably don't even realize there is a word spelled "quash"; and so the reverse is not true - that is, I've never heard anyone using "quash" when they should be using "squash".

Of course both words exist, but they mean different things, and they're not interchangeable. You should be using squash in one way and quash in a completely different way.

Okay, a quick and simple quiz. Which of the following is correct or incorrect?

a) The tomatoes were squashed because Arnold sat on them.

b) Jacob's head was squashed because a truck rolled over him.

Indeed, both of those examples demonstrate correct usage of squashed. So, squash, you understand, essentially means to squeeze, or crush. Oranges get squashed, tomatoes get squashed, people get squashed on the bus when there are not enough seats ... in fact lots of things get squashed - but that's completely different to something being quashed.

Quash, on the other hand, rather than meaning anything to do with crushing or squeezing, means to subdue, or suppress.

So, correct examples of using quash would be:

a) The people's rebellion was soon quashed by the government.

b) The defendant's lawyer was unsuccessful in quashing the subpoena.

c) There were desperate scenes, but police soon gained control and quashed the rioters.

d) "I will quash the uprising almost as soon as it begins", screamed the general.

In fact the two words, squash and quash, are not entirely unrelated, since they are each partially derived from the same Latin root. (both also have French origins too, but different).

Here are a couple of brief excerpts from the etymology of each word. Follow the links for full details.

from Old French esquasser, escasser "to crush, shatter, destroy, break," from Vulgar Latin *exquassare, from Latin ex "out" + quassare "to shatter"

from Old French quasser, quassier, casser "to annul, declare void," and directly from Medieval Latin quassare, alteration of Late Latin cassare, from cassus "null, void, empty". The meaning "subdue, put down summarily" is from c.1600.

However, hopefully you can see that squash and quash are not interchangeable. You can't simply arbitrarily choose to use one word instead of the other in a sentence; they each have different meanings, and in any given situation one will be correct and the other won't be.