Among the many features of the Christmas season: over-indulging in sweet foods and revisiting religious narratives set in the Middle East. Under those circumstances, it’s essential that you come to grips with the difference between a ‘desert’ (filled with sand) and a ‘dessert’ (filled with sugar).
Ice cream picture from Shutterstock
Need a handy trick to remember the difference? A dessert is super sweet, so it needs double the dose of S. Alternatively, there’s nothing much in a desert, so it has the smaller number of letters.
The other trap to watch for is the phrase ‘just deserts’. Although it’s pronounced in the same way as ‘dessert’, it uses the single-letter spelling. The reason, as we’ve noted before, is because this expression uses the secondary meaning of ‘desert’ as, roughly, “something much deserved”.
As is so often the case here at Mind Your Language, it’s an exception you’ll need to commit to memory. Accuracy matters.
Lifehacker’s Mind Your Language column offers bossy advice on improving your writing.