At least they didn't say 'limn'
Another kerfuffle over headline words has broken out at the Los Angeles Times which published a front-page headline reading “A gay teenager’s daily gantlet.”
You can guess the rest. Readers complained that gantlet should have been gauntlet. But Henry Fuhrmann, a good man and the paper’s assistant managing editor in charge of the copy desk, had to explain that the Times maintains a distinction that has been blurred in common use:
A gauntlet is a glove. The mailed glove that a knight flung to the ground as a challenge gave rise to the expression “throwing down the gauntlet.” A gantlet is a trial by ordeal, in which the object of the trial runs between two rows of men who beat him as he passes. “Running the gantlet” is a metaphor for enduring an ordeal.
Speakers of English, you’ve noticed, are not obsessively precise about pronunciation, and the similarity of the two words has made “running the gauntlet” increasingly prevalent.
The Times was within its rights to uphold an eroding distinction in usage.
(But let me tell you, Henry, it’s a mug’s game to have to explain yourself, even when you’re right.)