Baltimore looks for prestige, for a little extra cache, or so a recent article suggested before the copy desk got at it.
The right word, of course, is cachet, pronounced ka-SHAY. A cache, pronounced kash, is a place where supplies are hidden for safety, or the supplies themselves. As a verb, to cache means to store something in a hidden place, as campers hide their food in a place where bears won’t find it.
This particular confusion of usage is more common than one would like to think, and The Sun has inveighed against it in Publish and Be Damned, our in-house newsletter on writing and editing. Apparently to little effect.
Cachet, in the sense of possessing distinction, derives from the same root as cache. In pre-Revolutionary France, the crown used the lettre de cachet, a secret, sealed letter containing a warrant, to imprison someone without trial. The cachet was the seal that kept the letter secret. A cachet has thus come to mean a seal or stamp on a document and, by extension from the lettre de cachet, a mark of official approval. Odd that a negative connotation should metamorphose into a positive, but that is how language works.
Why anyone would confuse the two words is obscure, but I suspect that some responsibility must fall to Cache, a retailer of women’s fashions that has added an acute accent to cache to suggest cachet. Now you see the peril of allowing retailers to influence English usage. (Macy’s uses a little star instead of an apostrophe in its logo, but that doesn’t mean that you should use little stars instead of apostrophes.)
Seek instead the prestige that comes to those hardy souls who use words in their correct senses.