Bingeing or Binging?

By Mark Nichol

What’s the rule for attaching an -ing ending to a one-syllable, short-vowel word ending in -ge? Is the act of doing something too much, for example, an instance of bingeing, or has one been binging?

As it turns out, according to Merriam-Webster’s website, the -ing form of binge can be spelled either way, one of only two members of the class of words of this type with such flexibility. But among the others, the retention or omission of the e is inconsistent (but sensibly so). Here’s a list of such words and the accepted spelling of the -ing form, along with definitions.

Binge (bingeing or binging): compulsive or obsessive indulgence, or a party

Cringe (cringing): a shrinking movement in response to feeling disgust, embarrassment, fear, or subservience

Fringe (fringing): a border or narrow edge, or an extreme or marginal activity or subject or a group with such views

Hinge (hingeing): an attachment that allows a door or a similar object to open and close, or a similar flexible object, or a turning point

Singe (singeing): a slight burn

Springe (springing): a snare or trap

Tinge (tingeing): a trace of color, odor, taste, or quality of something, or a small influence

Twinge (twinging or twingeing): a sudden slight emotion, feeling, or pain

Another word of this type, the British English verb swinge, has no noun form, and the -ing form, swingeing, does not correspond to the definition of swinge, which means “beat” or “scourge” or, as a variant of singe, “scorch”; swingeing, used only as an adjective, means “high,” “large,” or “difficult,” or “very critical” or “very severe.” The -ing form of the British English word whinge, which means “complaint” or “whine,” is spelled either whinging or whingeing.

When an -ing ending is appended to the two-syllable words that rhyme with the words in this group, the sometimes-synonyms infringe and impinge, the e is omitted.

Similar one-syllable words with other vowels, likewise, uniformly omit the e: flange (a rim or edge), lunge (a sudden forward movement), plunge (a sudden jump or fall from a high place or a high amount), and sponge (a soft marine animal, an absorbent material, or someone who takes advantage of others).

What’s the rhyme or reason for the variations in the binge family? The retention of e in the -ing forms of singe, springe, swinge, and tinge apparently stems from the fact that they could be confused with the -ing endings for sing, spring, swing, and ting. Bing is also a word (a British English term for a pile or bin for storage), but it’s rare—hence the alternative binging. There is, however, no competition for twinging.

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3 Responses to “Bingeing or Binging?”

  • Bev

    Even though ‘bing’ is British, Microsoft has named its web-search engine Bing – so now my sister says she is ‘binging something’ when she is looking for something via her smartphone.
    Consequently, I’ve started adding the ‘e’ to bingeing for clarification.

  • venqax

    But the listed form for springe is springing sans the E. How does that address “the fact that that [it] could be confused with the -ing endings for…spring…”?

  • Anne-Marie

    Venqax, it’s a springe!

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