Sexy Wordplay: Flack vs Flak

When your editor-in-chief is ripping you a new one, are you getting flack or flak? What about when your B-52 bomber is being fired upon from the ground?

I thought this would be a simple enough distinction, but as soon as I started doing the research for this post, I found that there’s more to it than just flack vs flak. So light a candle, pour yourself a glass of wine, and settle in for this month’s sexy wordplay!

I’d always heard that flack is criticism and flak is anti-aircraft fire.

As it turns out, flak with a K is the correct form of both words.

Flak is a German word that is shortened from Fliegerabwehrkanonen (flyer defense cannons).  You don’t even need to be very familiar with German to recognize cognates like flieger and kanonen. And because flak is a form of opposition, it also refers to criticism.

Now, if you want to use flack when referring to criticism, I really can’t stop you. Just know that you’re technically wrong.

But if you want to use flack correctly, it only has one definition: one who provides publicity, i.e. a press agent.

the more you know

Go forth, my children, and spell things properly!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s