Am in the pretty churchy city of Adelaide for a wedding. What larks. I love weddings! And these two crazy kids are great together. But internet access is not so much limited as BLOODY EXPENSIVE. Stupid gouging hotels! Colour me outraged.

So quickly: “gaol” is an another spelling of that place where people are locked up which is usually spelled “jail”. It ain’t slang. It used to be the only way the word was spelled but is on its way out. I cling to it out of love and perversity.

And thanks again for all the congrats on the Norton win. I can’t believe I’m still getting them! Yay! And an even bigger yay for the impact it’s had on my Amazon sales and my secret NYC bookseller friend who told me she has some people come in and ask for the Norton winner. Who knew?

Have any of you read any Jacqueline Wilson books? Some of you must have given that she’s sold gazillion billion trillion copies. I’ve been reading and really enjoying her Girls in Love books. Lovely.

And now I go before they demand my first born child.


  1. jenny davidson on #

    i love the spelling “gaol”–but what perhaps you might not know is that it is really the same word as “goal” (makes sense, eh? the little cage you pop the ball or whatever into…) and the two spellings are indistinguishable in lots of 18th-century books…

    here’s the oed:

    [ME. had two types, from Northern or Norman Fr., and Central or Parisian Fr. respectively: 1) ME. gay(h)ole, -ol, gayll(e, gaill(e, gayl(e, gaile, a. ONF. gaiole, gayolle, gaole (mod. Picard gayole, Walloon gaioule); 2) ME. jaiole, jayle, jaile, jayll, a. OF. jaiole, jaole, jeole, geole, cage, prison, F. geôle prison (Besançon javiole cage for fowls) = obs. It. gaiola, Sp. gayola (also, from F., jaula cage, cell), Pg. gaiola cage:Romanic and pop.Lat. *gavila (med.L. gabiola, 1229 in Brachet) for *caveola, dim. of cavea hollow, cavity, den, cage, coop: see CAGE. Of the two types, the Norman Fr. and ME. gaiole, gaole, came down to the 17th c. as gaile, and still remains as a written form in the archaic spelling gaol (chiefly due to statutory and official tradition); but this is obsolete in the spoken language, where the surviving word is jail, repr. Old Parisian Fr. and ME. jaiole, jaile. Hence though both forms gaol, jail, are still written, only the latter is spoken. In U.S. jail is the official spelling. It is difficult to say whether the form goal(e, common, alike in official and general use, from the 16th to the 18th c., was merely an erroneous spelling of gaol, after this had itself become an archaism, or was phonetic: cf. mod.F. geôle (ol).
    1668 R. L’ESTRANGE Vis. Quev. (1708) 6 Some again are..boring their very Noses with hot Irons, in rage that they cannot come to a Resolution, whether they shall say Face or Visage; whether they shall say Jayl or Gaol; whether Cony or Cunny.]

    1. a. A place or building for the confinement of persons accused or convicted of a crime or offence; a prison. Now, a public building for the detention of persons committed by process of law.

    c1275 11 Pains Hell 219 in O.E. Misc. 153 In helle is a deop gayhol. c1290 S. Eng. Leg. I. 187/105 Heo setten him in a swye deork put, at in e gayhole was. c1380 Sir Ferumb. 1970 To my Gayhol go anon & e fyue at bu er Brynge hem out euerechon. 1463 Bury Wills (Camden) 17, I wille the presoneres in the Gayle haue o day brede, mete, and drynkke, and eche persone jd. 1494 FABYAN Chron. VII. 380 The duke of Burgoyne..wt the prouost of Paris, came vnto the Gayole, and there receyued the sayd Peter. a1548 HALL Chron., Hen. VI 170b, He was committed to the gayle of Newgate. 1572 Act 14 Eliz. c. 5 §38 To such sufficient persons dwellinge nighe the said Goales. 1647 CLARENDON Hist. Reb. v. §51 To be committed to the Common Goal of Colchester. 1689 Wonderful Predict. Nostradamus 3, Beer shall fail The Great one Cold, and famish’t in a Gaol. 1779 J. BURGOYNE Let. to Constituents (ed. 3) 15 The goals..were resorted to for other recruits. 1846 MCCULLOCH Acc. Brit. Empire (1854) II. 497 At that period the gaols were..depositories of pestilence. 1848 Act 11 & 12 Vict. c. 42 §21 To remand the party the common gaol or house of correction, or other prison, lock-up house, or place of security in the county.

    depositories of pestilence!

  2. Penni on #

    My first born child asked me today, quite seriously and with a curious tone, ‘Can I eat Una’s brains?’ Naturally I thought of you.

    And there you are, of course, Adelaide is the city of zombies.

  3. alisa on #

    ok, this whole gaol, jail thing? awesome! i knew what a gaol was, from reading zillions of old books, but i (stupid) never connected the two words as far as pronunciation goes. i always said something like “gay-ole” in my head. which is just not right. so, thank you for fixing yet another byproduct of my consumptive reading habits.

    i went to borders but i couldn’t find your books. scott’s were there. but not yours. i wanted yours! so, i guess i’m going to have to order them? or are you in some other section, like that i didn’t look in?

    as far as firstborn children, mine is a dream, but, he has a tendency to be bossy. kind of like me. those firsts and their bossiness!

  4. alisa on #

    also, adelaide? never been there, but love the name. it sounds old fashioned and kinda juicy. with lace.

  5. Dess on #

    i read a book a long time called adelaide falling star. i am in love with that name. and i also couldn’t find your books at borders. the people kinda got an earful. (what do you mean you dont have any justine larbalestier books?!?!?! did you EVER have any? NO?!?! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?! DO YOU REALIZE SHE IS A NORTON WINNING AUTHOR?!?! no i don’t want you to order it for me, thank you. i’ll get it somewhere else. hmph.)

  6. Dess on #

    although, they did have so yesterday which i bought but not the day i was there (monday). when i went to the mall yesterday they had it. but still no books by you. i was depressed. barnes and noble has it though. i called them.

  7. alisa on #

    awesome! i will check at b&n.

  8. Diana on #

    I feel the same way about “grey.” “Grey” sounds so much… grey-er, than “gray.”

  9. amy fiske on #

    i had the exact same borders experience. we had words. i also told them that i didn’t want them to order it for me but to order it for EVERYBODY. like, in bulk. sheesh.

  10. Chris McLaren on #

    I’m with you on gaol, if for no other reason than The Ballad Of Reading Jail just looks so wrong.

  11. Dan Goodman on #

    “Jail” is the US spelling; “gaol” is the UK spelling (or used to be; perhaps it’s changing there?)

    This wouldn’t be the first time Australia has adopted a US spelling; the Labor Party’s name is a precedent.

    The spelling rules for Canadian English are a UK-US mixture.

  12. marrije on #

    are you serious about jail and gaol being pronounced the same, people? I feel so foreign again…

  13. Justine on #

    They’re pronounced exactly the same.

    Dan Goodman: That might have been true forty years ago, but all my life “gaol” has been on its way out.

    I can’t speak for the UK. But I’ve seen the “jail” spelling in the Guardian.

  14. Robert Legault on #

    Justine, since you are from part of the former British empire, you are perfectly entitled to use British spellings without further explanation.

    If we Yanks use them, it would be another story (unless we’re quoting Oscar Wilde or something).

  15. Ammy on #

    I SHOULD spell ‘jail’ ‘gaol’ but I never do. Call me a rebellious Sydneysider. And I’ve been to Adelaide before. It’s such a beautiful city.

    I’ve actually read almost all of Jacqueline Wilson’s books. I probably started when I was 8 and had finished so many of them by the time I was 12 (I didn’t read them end-to-end, obviously). She’s a great author.

  16. Elmo on #

    I find it amazing that one little word can start so many conversations…
    I only use ‘gaol’ because when I was little and writing something (with the word ‘jail’ in it) my mum read it and made me rewrite it with the ‘Australian’ spelling, and gave me a ten minute lecture on spelling things properly because I would get into trouble at scholl if i didn’t. Of course, the fact that my teacher (at the time) was American meant that she re-corrected my work and changed the spelling.
    I was peeved.

  17. mckayla on #

    justine i just love your last name its so pretty

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