The Grammarphobia Blog

Are we losing the “d” in “iced tea”?

Q: Have you noticed the death of the “-ed” adjective? I see lots of signs that say “ice tea” and people talk about “mix tapes.”

A: The spelling “ice tea” is here to stay. In fact, these days “iced tea” sounds a bit quaint. “Iced tea” (first used in 1877) is still often seen and heard, but “ice tea” is now more popular: Google results: “ice,” 2.3 million hits; “iced,” 2 million.

This is no surprise. Both “ice milk” and “ice water” used to be written as “iced.” And “ice cream” used to be “iced cream,” but its evolution doesn’t seem to bother anybody. (The term “iced cream” originated in 1688, but it became “ice cream” around 1744 and it’s been predominantly “ice cream” ever since.)

The fact is that “-ed” can be awkward to pronounce before a consonant. So it was natural that the “-ed” in “iced cream” would die a natural death as part of such a familiar compound. “Iced coffee,” however, is a new enough phenomenon that the full compound is still being pronounced and spelled. When it becomes more familiar, it too will probably lose that “-ed” ending.

As for “mix tape” (a compilation of songs or videos, often unauthorized), it was seldom written as “mixed tape” as far as I can tell. The expression is generally either “mix tape” or “mixtape” (there are over 10 million references for this last usage in Google).

I would agree with you, though, that in speech the
“-ed” ending is often dropped in expressions where it ought to remain. We are used to HEARING things like “corn beef,” “mash potatoes,” “grill cheese,” “chop liver,” and “whip cream,” for example, but people generally don’t WRITE these phrases that way. In writing, the “-ed” endings are preserved.

Why am I coming up with food examples? I must be hungry.

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