One of my students spelled the word <refrigerator> and I thought he was wrong. We checked it with a dictionary and found that my spelling <refridgerator> was incorrect. I thought it was correct based on the knowledge of using <dge> after a single short vowel phoneme. Based on my previous quests, I told him that I don't think this spelling could be explained by phonics. So we began, our investigation.

Here was our word sum:

refrigerator -> re+frig+er+ate+or

I looked up the word on etymonline:

refrigerate (v.) Look up refrigerate at
1530s, back-formation from refrigeration, or else from Latin refrigeratus, past participle of refrigerare "make cool or cold." Related: Refrigeratedrefrigerating. Earlier words in the same sense of "to make cold, to cool" were infrigideninfrigidate(both early 15c.).
We noticed the latin <refrigerare> and looked it up in our latin dictionary and got the root <frigere. So I'm assuming, based on my limited latin skills, that the base we're using is <frig> from the root frigere "cold". This explains the <g>. 
So he asked me this question:
Why wouldn't English spellers change the way we spell this base to <fridge> like in the spelling we normally use? Why wouldn't we change the <g> in <frig> to <dge> so it's consistent with the <dge> spelling convention?
"I put the food in the fridge." 
He said this spelling <fridge> makes more sense. Can anybody help us make sense of this word? 

Comments (1)

  1. Marshall

I have often wondered why, after looking up the word refrigerator many times, I keep trying to spell it as "refridgerator" or "refridgeration". It is all the more annoying since I work in the field of 'refrigeration'. I have come up with two reasons why I personally keep misremembering the spelling.
One is the word "fridge" as you mention. Given all the word origins listed, the spelling seems like it should have been frige, but as you also point out that would tend to change the vowel sound (like dodge vs doge) or harden the g (as in edge vs egg) .. Also we have so many other 'dge' ending words.The spelling fridge therefore makes sense from a phonetic viewpoint, since it makes clear a short i sound and soft g sound.
So why not refridgerate or refridgeration? I think the position of the g in those words makes the softening 'dg' unnecessary so it has been dropped as redundant.
The second reason for myself forgetting the spelling I think is the word "frigid" and the brand name "Frigidaire", a line of kitchen appliances that originally started with "fridges"(or refrigerators). True, it is not spelled "Fridgidaire" but the root word and the brand name combine in a person's brain to say "I'm sure there's a "d" in there somewhere".

Just my two cents, if that makes sense. Posting all this might help me fix the correct spelling in my brain.


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