Two Words: Crevice/Crevasse

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These look like alternate spellings of the same word. But they aren’t.

To be sure, they have similar meanings and similar pronunciations. I’ve always assumed they meant the same. I was mistaken. Here’s the scoop:


The other night, at maybe 3 am, I was proofreading the all-new digital version of my 1998 book, The Metropolis of Satan.

Please note, the book itself is not new. As I just mentioned, it’s been around since 1998. This 2017 edition looks and reads almost exactly like the original paperback. Subtle though it is, the crevice/crevasse thing may be the single most visible change.

What’s new is the digital production. Metropolis now is available as an ebook, as well as a print-on-demand version on Amazon. In the past, you had to order it through the Stonehaven Press website.

The digital edition did, of course, require all-new typesetting. That’s one of the things I do, so I poured all my energy into the task. Among many other hurdles, this entailed literally dozens of proofreadings.

The last two or three, I’d found no errors. I was ready, with the click of a mouse, to upload the whole project to Amazon and its CreateSpace subsidiary.

So of course I decided to go to bed and look the whole thing over again in the morning. Can’t be too paranoid when shooting for typesetting excellence.

As sleep closed in, I thought, for reasons I still don’t grasp: “Doesn’t ‘crevice’ have an alternate spelling?” (I’d used the word exactly once in the book.)

Well, I told myself, maybe it does. But since I only ever see it as “crevice”, that has to be the preferred spelling, no? Why worry? Go back to sleep!

Naturally, curiosity wouldn’t allow that, so I got up and googled “crevice alternate spellings”.

That’s how I learned “crevice” doesn’t have an alternate spelling. It just has an alternate word — and I had used the wrong one!

I had written about falling into a deep, wide opening in a glacier. Something like a canyon-sized crack. This I had called a crevice.

But a crevice, I now realized, isn’t something deep and wide. A crevice is a hairline crack. The word I wanted was “crevasse”, which means a deep, open, highly visible crack. One possibly large enough to fall into.

The Grand Canyon, in other words, is a crevasse, not a crevice.

I gleefully made the correction, then went to sleep. Uploaded the book next morning, and of course had to go through Amazon’s whole proofing cycle once more.

All done now. The Metropolis of Satan is open for business on Amazon.

Being digital means it’s now easy to incorporate corrections. (Unlike the original, traditionally printed version.) So if you spot any others, please alert me and I’ll fix them. Thanks in advance!

(This article is part of my series on words that are #worth1000pictures.)


Two Words: Crevice/Crevasse — 12 Comments

  1. Funny this one should show up in my inbox this morning! Just the other day, I was proofreading, and came across using “a crevasse tool” to clean tight spaces in the car interior. It seemed wrong, but I couldn’t pinpoint why, so I looked it up and had a good laugh trying to figure out how you would vacuum a crevasse (a vacuum cleaner the size of Africa, no doubt).

    • Good one, Ben! Yes, to vacuum a small, narrow opening we’d use the appliance’s “crevice tool”. The other might be appropriate for Paul Bunyan or Galactus.

  2. Wow! Never for a moment would I imagine anyone would confuse those two words. Maybe I’ve just watched too many shows about glaciers.

    • Great point, Tania. Whenever there are two similar, easily confused words, I tend to look for some simple reminder as to which is which. For this pair, I hadn’t found or thought of one.

      So yes, a “vast” crevice is a “creVASse”. Now I’ll remember them for sure. Thanks!

  3. We’re never too old to learn something new, even if not every day. I liked Tania’s comment also. Crevasse is one of my favorite words just because it’s fun to say out loud.

  4. This confusion can happen to anyone. As a foreigner, I always thought that “crevice” is the English word for the French “crevasse”, but that was only the superficial layer I cover myself sometimes.
    It’s good to have you around, Gary 🙂

    • Your impression was certainly logical and reasonable. It’s too bad language so rarely is either logical or reasonable. ≧◔◡◔≦

  5. Good morning,
    You give us fun things to think about Gary,

    It is especially clear when spoken in French:
    When you say crevisse, your teeth and lips have a narrow opening. But when you say crevasse, your jaw drops, opening wide the space to fall into 😂😂.

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