Hue and Cry
The following comment set me wondering how widespread the misspelling of hue in the expression hue and cry has become:
Where’s the hew and cry [in the mainstream media] about the way women are treated?
A web search turned up a great many examples of “hew and cry,” but it’s not always easy to tell which are misspellings and which are intended to be humorous.
For example, the Seattle Times ran the headline, “Hew and Cry Put on Hold.” The story was about a protest against the the logging of Old-Growth stands.
Before 1979 and the separation of the Department of Education from the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, many newspaper headlines used the expression “hew and cry” as a play on the acronym HEW.
Sometimes, however, the intended expression seems clear enough from the context. Here are some examples of hue being misspelled as hew in newspapers published in the U.S., the U.K., Australia, and Canada.
Amid Hew and Cry, British Buyout Firms Stay on Message
Remember the hew and cry about some ducks dying in a tailings pond?
Imagine the hew and cry if GeorgeBush were President
So where’s the hew and cry over the gross spending spree?
Hew and cry as South run riot
Modern speakers are more familiar with the hue that means “color” than with the hue that means a noise or an outcry, so it’s not surprising they might assume the hue in the expression would have a different spelling.
hue: noun. Outcry, shouting, clamor, especially that raised by a multitude in war or the chase.
Hue meaning “shout” came into English from French heu, which was more of an utterance like “huh” than a word. “Hue and cry” was the combined tumult of men shouting, dogs baying, and hunting horns sounding that accompanied the pursuit of a criminal. In time the expression became a legal term for such a pursuit commanded by the local constable. Men who refused to assist in “the hue and cry” were subject to legal penalties.
In modern use, “hue and cry” is used figuratively as a synonym for outcry. One “raises a hue and cry” against a perceived crime or injustice.
Hew, on the other hand, has to do with cutting and chopping.
hew: verb. to strike, or deal blows with a cutting weapon; to strike forcibly with a cutting tool.
Considering that “hue and cry” is in its ninth century of use, insisting on spelling it correctly may seem a bit picky. It’s amazing that modern speakers still have a use for it. Still, dictionaries do exist. It seems reasonable to expect people to learn to spell the words they use in publishing their thoughts.
Subscribe to Daily Writing Tips and get a free eBook!
- Our weekly newsletter is free (one email per week, on Tuesdays)
- You will improve your English, guaranteed.
- Get our "100 Writing Mistakes to Avoid" eBook free.
Keep learning! Browse the Expressions category, check our popular posts, or choose a related post below:
- 7 Examples of Passive Voice (And How To Fix Them)
- 3 Cases of Complicated Hyphenation
- Is "Number" Singular or Plural?