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Spelling: ring and wring

17 Jan 2017

An occasional series of posts about words the trap the unwary.

The bell ringer ran rings around us, and the experience made me feel as if I’d been put through the wringer. I could have wrung his neck.

To ring something is to either make a circle round it; or to make it chime like a bell.

To wring something is to twist it – either to squeeze water out of it by twisting (hence, a wringer as another word for a mangle; and also ‘wringing wet’); or to kill something by twisting its neck.


Handwringing describes a gesture of powerless distress where the hands are clasped and twisted.
Wring someone's heart: hurt them emotionally.
Ring down (or up) the curtain on: To begin or end an enterprise.
Ring fence: This is a fence surrounding and sealing in a piece of land; but it is used in talk about funding and finance: ‘About £10m has been ring-fenced for research into HIV.’
Ring the changes: This creeps into text about... well change of any sort really. A writer who does this is wearing down the real meaning. To ‘ring the changes’ means to ring bells in a specific sequence which changes with every repetition. Be amazed – check the Wikipedia article .