Language Usage Weblog

Tip 1: Squash or quash or squelch

A reader writes:

A student paper contains this sentence:

Although there was a sense of optimism in the air about a national healthcare program being created, it was quickly squashed by interest groups such as insurance companies, physicians, business owners, and union leaders, as well as America’s entrance into World War I.

I have seen “squashed” used in this way before, but isn’t the proper phraseology either squelched or quashed and not the elision of the two?!

Our esteemed reader is absolutely right. And apparently mixing up quash and squash is very common. Mixing up squelch with quash and squash is less of a problem—partly because squelch is used far less often and partly because squelch can be used as a synonym for both words. It’s complicated.

I have to start by saying that there is a great deal of contention about how…

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