The English language is often affected by fashion, or changes in style. We see this all the time in relation to words and phrases.

I had a discussion recently over the word “floodgate” and its variations, so it seemed appropriate to post some information about it.

It usually nowadays appears as one word (floodgate), but it can also be spelt as two words (flood gate) or with a hyphen (flood-gate).

A brief search of the NLA’s collection of online historical newspapers shows the earliest usage in Australia was that of the hyphenated version (1820s), although the two-word version was also used (1830s):

“A child, an idiot may lift a flood-gate“.
*1826 ‘Miscellany, original and select’, Hobart Town Gazette (Tas. : 1825 – 1827; 1830), 21 January, p. 4, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article8791429

“the Ministers were warned of the danger, when in 1822, they re-opened the flood-gates of paper-money”.
*1826 ‘Cobbett’s lectures to mechanics: Lecture no. 3’, The Monitor (Sydney, NSW : 1826 – 1828), 29 September, p. 154, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article31757875

“There are many eligible situations on the coast where a small embankment might be made to admit the sea at high-water by a flood-gate, and retained to evaporate.”
*1827 ‘Hobart-Town, Saturday June 9, 1827’, Hobart Town Gazette (Tas. : 1825 – 1827; 1830), 9 June, pp. 2-4 (see p. 3), http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article8791220

“impetuously through flood gates occasionally opened”.
*1827 ‘Late vote of the House of Lords on the Corn Bill’, The Monitor (Sydney, NSW : 1826 – 1828), 1 October, p. 4, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article31758964

“opened the flood gates of knowledge upon us”.
*1831 ‘Original correspondence’, The Independent (Launceston, Tas. : 1831 – 1835), 25 June, p. 4, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article233684465

“The flood gates of infection have been opened”.
*1832 ‘Thursday, August 30, 1932’, The Sydney Herald (NSW : 1831 – 1842), 30 August, p. 2, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article12845166

If we look at the 1895 edition of Webster’s Academic Dictionary, it lists “flood gate”, with no alternative versions included.
*Webster’s Academic Dictionary: A Dictionary of the English Language, New York: American Book Company, 1895, p. 226

The Online Etymology Dictionary has it listed with a hyphen, “flood-gate (n.)“.

Coming into the modern era, AWMA Pty. Ltd., who make “Flood Barriers and Flood Gates” use the two word version.

Here are some other contemporary examples of the two word version being used:

“An eerie warning siren blasts out across an East Cleveland village as workers close the flood gates“.
*Dave Robson, “Simpler locks a boost for Skinningrove flood defences“, Teesside Gazette, 18 September 2009

“the works shall include for the design, supply and installation of proprietary fixed and demountable flood gates and barrier systems to maintain existing pedestrian and vehicle openings”.
*Orkney Islands Council, “Kirkwall Harbour Flood Prevention Scheme“, Public Contracts Scotland, 14 April 2016

“The Environment Agency (EA) has discussed proposals to reduce the amount of time that the flood gates in Warkworth are closed”.
*”Plans to open flood gates spark concern“, Northumberland Gazette, 26 October 2018

“Work crews are closing flood gates from St. Bernard parish to the Lakefront Marina”.
*”Flood gates closing along Lake Pontchartrain in advance of Hurricane Michael“, WGNO, 9 October 2018

So, spellings in the English language can be more complicated than some may think. It would be interesting to look at some other words which have changed, but there’s probably too many instances for me to list every one of them. To do so would require thousands of articles, and (in terms of posts) that would mean opening the flood gates/flood-gates/floodgates.



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