Being susceptible one morning this week to a little pedantry I happened across the word IMbed in a leaflet from Birkenstock about the tiny-bubble infested poly-substance they make they wonderful gardening clogs from.

IMbed, the little man at the back of my brain squealed!! Philistines, the word is Embed. Harrumph.

Well it was raining outside so I looked it up (or did some “research” as modern usage has it) and it pains me to have to say that  it seems both are correct though my form is corrector – that is, more widely used – than their form. Sort of … so I shall quote:

… examples of both spellings can readily be found online. It’s not that different in literature: “Billy, in fact, had a paperweight in his office which was a blob of polished amber with three ladybugs embedded in it.” —Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five “As an act recedes into the past and becomes imbedded in the network of one’s individuality it seems more and more a product of fate—inevitable.” —Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath Evidence suggests that both spellings have peacefully coexisted since at least the late eighteenth century. The “imbed” spelling first appeared in print in 1778, while “embed” was found in a book from 1794. The prefix im- , which is used to form “imbed,” is a common substitution for the prefix in- when it’s attached to words that begin with “b” (imbue), “p” (impend), or “m” (immortal). In “imbed,” however, something else happens—the prefix im- replaces the prefix em-. The prefix em-, itself a substitution for the prefix en-, came into Middle English from Old French, and since the fourteenth century has been occasionally used instead of in- (im-). The substitution happens the other way around, too. That’s why today we have words like “enquire” and “inquire,” which have very little—if any—difference in meaning, even though they are spelled differently. In some cases, however, a difference in meaning did develop, as with “ensure” and “insure.” But for embed and imbed, the meaning remained the same, even though the spelling variant that starts with E has become prevalent.

All of which made me think, “hang on, was it not eNbed, in my youth?” I rather think it was. Is it too late for a revival?

Which spelling do you use? Is there a difference between North American usage and British? What do they say in Australia?

** This factoid has been brought to you by the Sparroworks Pedantry Service.