I was reading a news article about a football team’s lack of cohesion. It quoted a player as saying “we have to jell as a team,” and I immediately seized upon that in a fit of self-righteousness thinking “That’s not a word! It should be ‘gel’ not ‘jell’.” I found myself quickly humbled to discover that jell is indeed a word, and that the two have distinct meanings.
- Gel is a substance that has a consistency similar to jelly. A gel may be a cosmetic, a hair product, a medicinal product or other substance. Gel may be used as a noun or a verb, when used as a verb gel means to form something into a gel. Related words are gels, gelled, gelling. Thomas Graham coined the word gel around 1900, as a back-formation from the word gelatin.
- Jell is a verb that means to become a consistency similar to jelly. Related words are jells, jelled, jelling, the noun form is jelly. Jellmay also be used to mean that something is growing firmer or is becoming set. Last of all, jell is sometimes used to describe the process of a project taking shape or the process of a group of people coming together in harmony, especially when working on a project together. Jell is a back-formation from jelly, coming into the language in the latter 1800s.
Go forth now, share your newfound knowledge, and feel good that you learned something new today.
What’s that? You already knew everything I just told you?!