heard it on TV again this morning. Someone said “brinkmanship.” In the same conversation, I also heard “brinksmanship.” That’s been the case for a month or so whenever media types are discussing the antics in Washington, and I’ve been meaning to consult a dictionary.
I’ve always said “brinksmanship,” with an s after brink. Never really thought about it. Just thought that was the word. But many people on TV have been saying “brinkmanship,” without that s.
After a brief search I found a story in Mother Jones by Kevin Drum, who had run into the same situation. He’d always used the s, and this week his copy editor suggested he change it. After consulting a number of sources, he determined that “brinkmanship” was used by an overwhelming majority of people, so he relented.
The source that convinced him was the Google Ngram Viewer, something I’d never heard of but expect to be consulting in the future. It’s an intriguing tool.
If you’re interested in linguistics, check out Drum’s article and the comments that follow. I found them more convincing than the article itself. They also convinced me that I’ve been out of the English classroom far longer than I’d thought.