Editorial: Don’t Use Two Words When One Will Suffice

You say “home brew,” we say “homebrew”

Hopefully you aren’t cursed with the same grammatical attention to detail as we. But if you are, you’re likely irked when you come upon the term “home brew” instead of the widely accepted single-word usage. So what’s the deal? Why diverge from the more common term, recognized by the American Homebrewers Association (AHA), among other organizations?

Our theory is that the blame falls squarely on Microsoft, the much-maligned tech company that often brings grief to Mac-loving office workers doomed to PC use in the professional realm. As you might have noticed, homebrewing is considered a misspelling. Let Microsoft have their way, and it changes to home brewing. Why do writers give in to the fallibility of the computer? Many may not be completely versed in the world of beer and homebrewing and aren’t confident in the correct spelling. They play it safe, opting to say home brew. Probably their editors are even less knowledgeable, so any instances of homebrew or homebrewing are likely to get chopped in two.

The truth of the matter is that, no matter how much grammar-loving homebrewers are bothered by instances of home brew or home brewing, the founders of the AHA weren’t particularly concerned with the specifics of the term. “I suppose it just evolved from the old British homebrewing books we were reading,” explains AHA founder Charlie Papazian, “It also made for a better abbreviation, instead of AHBA.” Once the AHA hired Cathy McClurg as Zymurgy magazine’s first editor, she insisted on consistent usage throughout, and homebrewing became the standard. Looking back at the legislation that legalized homebrewing, one finds no instances of home brewing or home brew, and going even further back, a homebrewing article in the November 1935 issue of The American Mercury follows the same standard.

In the early days, the only quibbles Papazian can remember are more philosophical than grammatical. He recalls how a few curmudgeons were concerned that homebrewing would evoke memories of sketchy backwoods operations, brewing up dangerous liquor in bathtubs or secret shacks. Some even proposed the term “home beer making.” Fortunately, the early homebrewers stuck to their guns. Let’s face it, AHBMA would have been an even uglier acronym. Not only that, but as any writer knows, brevity is the soul of wit(bier). 

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