Word Confusion: Flack versus Flak

Posted May 29, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Yeah, I’ve taken some flak for my stance on these word confusions. And it’s okay. Sometimes I learn something new. Sometimes I get to be all self-righteous. Sometimes we just agree to disagree.

Speaking of agreeing, you’ll note that flack and flak can be alternative spellings for each other. However, you should also note that this pair of heterographs are distinct in that flack can also be about marketing and promotion whereas the closest flak comes is in criticizing.

Whichever you choose to use, be consistent throughout your manuscript in using the same spelling variation throughout. I’d flag your ass if you switched back and forth!

Hmmm, you could also say that my comment on flagging you is flack on my part to promote my editing business…

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end.

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Flack Flak
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com

Image courtesy of By Máirín Duffy, Liansu Yu, Hylke Bons [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

A flyer flacking Free and Open Source Software remote internships for women taking place from January 2 to April 2, 2013.

Image courtesy of Edward L. Cooper [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The 2S6, deployed in the 1980s, was the newest antiaircraft system designed to operate with the motorized rifle and tank divisions. The 30-mm 2S6 represented a significant improvement over the older ZSU-23-4 and complemented the Soviet’s highly effective surface-to-air missiles.

Part of Grammar:

Verb 1, intransitive & transitive

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: flacks
Past tense or past participle: flacked
Gerund or present participle: flacking

A variant spelling of flak


A variant spelling of flack

A publicity agent 1

Verb, intransitive:
Publicize or promote something or someone

Verb, transitive:
Publicize or promote something or someone

Antiaircraft fire

Strong criticism

He’s just a public relations flack.

Verb, intransitive:
The local news media shamelessly flack for the organizing.

Jenny flacks for a new rock group.

Verb, transitive:
A crass ambulance-chaser who flacks himself in TV ads.
Nadir needs to flack this new record.

You must be strong enough to take the flak if things go wrong.
History of the Word:
1 1935-40 and said to be after Gene Flack, a movie publicity agent. 1930s, from the German, an abbreviation of Fliegerabwehrkanone, which literally means aircraft-defense gun.

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves? Also, please note that I try to be as accurate as I can, but mistakes happen or I miss something. Email me if you find errors, so I can fix them…and we’ll all benefit!

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Pinterest Photo Credits:

88mm SKC30” by Erik Ritterbach is under the CC BY-SA 2.0 de, GFDL, or CC-BY-SA-3.0 license and ” German retired soccer-pro Franz Beckenbauer in front of some Paparazzi” is DerFalkVonFreyburg’s own work under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license with both via Wikimedia Commons.