Of mannequins and manikins


Recently I was reading an article about a study on the efficacy of cloth masks for COVID-19 protection. Researchers tested masks by putting them on mannequins, the article reported. Except the illustration that accompanied the article didn’t call them mannequins. In the images, the dummies were referred to multiple times as “manikins.”

I stifled an “aha!” and basked in a moment of smug satisfaction. Then I reined in my typo-slayer triumph. As I’ve learned over the years, it’s always a bad idea to get cocky about a language issue without looking it up first. So I looked up “manikin.”

Merriam-Webster’s set me straight. “Manikin” is not a spelling error. It’s a synonym of “mannequin.” Less frequently, so is “mannikin.”

Often, variant spellings like these result from people accidentally misspelling a word over and over for years. But that may not be the case here. Here's what I learned about the origins of "manikin" and "mannequin" and why both were correct in the article.

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