Annals of Modern Spelling: 'Footware,' or 'Footwear'?

Includes: NKE, TBL
by: Geoff Gannon

While reading a post about Timberland (NYSE:TBL) on Joe Cit – Intelligent Investing, I followed a link to MSN Money. Interestingly, they classified Timberland as being in the "Textile - Apparel Footware & Accessories" industry. I say this is interesting, because I never knew "footware" was a word.

It might very well be a word, or simply an alternate spelling of "footwear" that I was unfamiliar with. So, I checked Business Week and saw that they list Timberland as belonging to the "Cyclical/Footware" industry group. Once again, we see evidence of a heretofore unknown word.

As far as I can tell, all of the companies themselves say they are in the "footwear" business rather than the "footware" business. But, here you have two well-known sources (MSN Money and Business Week) both using this very odd spelling. As I investigated the matter further, I discovered that CNBC (which now has its own website apart from MSN Money) spells the industry name "footwear" rather than "footware." To me, this spelling would seem to be the most logical one.

"Footwear" means something worn on feet. "Footware", would, as I understand the "–ware" suffix (and it is one of the vaguest suffixes in our language) mean something made out of a foot, much the way stoneware, copperware, etc. are made from those materials. Of course, there's also "hardware," "software," and "giftware" (which mean something a little different). Personally, I'm sticking with the traditional "footwear" spelling, since you wear shoes on your feet. Timberland itself spells the word "footwear" – so, I think I'm in good company here.

As this is clearly a matter of the utmost importance, I would appreciate evidence submitted via comments showing why I am wrong and MSN and Business Week is right.

Here is the evidence in support of the "footware" spelling:

Exhibit A: MSN Money, "Textile - Apparel Footware & Accessories"

Exhibit B: Business Week, "Cyclical/Footware"

Here is the evidence in support of the "footwear" spelling:

Exhibit A: CNBC, "Industry: Footwear"

"Footware," or "footwear"? – Help me please!

Needless to say, it would be a great service to humanity if we could conclusively determine if "footware" is a legitimate word and should be upheld as such in our language – or if it should be eradicated now, so future generations will not be tempted to choose a pretender over the one true word.

Your help in resolving this matter is greatly appreciated.

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Tagged: , Textile - Apparel Footwear & Accessories
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