Grammar 101 with Michael Kwan

I was having a conversation with my good friend Lesley Chang yesterday and she was telling me about how her workplace recently got a fancy new coffee machine. She used it to grab a hot chocolate and then she compared the experience to the Tassimo system.

We both scratched our respective heads as we tried to remember if the products for the Tassimo system are called T-discs or T-disks. Then, that opened up a whole new discussion about the difference between discs and disks in a more general sense.

Both disks and discs are round and thin. In many places, you might find them used interchangeable. Given that I am somewhat of a technology geek, the difference between disc and disk in a computer sense is a little easier to understand:

  • Disk (with a K) refers to storage media where the data is recorded magnetically, as would be the case in a hard drive disk (HDD).
  • Disc (with a C) refers to storage media where the data is recorded optically, as would be the case with a compact disc (CD) or a digital versatile/video disc (DVD).

Outside of that realm, though, the differences become more a matter of cultural (and personal) preference, as well as the origin of the term. It is more common to refer to the discs in your spine, but mechanics more typically refer to disk brakes. Disc (with a C) is generally preferred in British English, whereas disk (with a K) is more preferred in American English.

It’s amazing how one letter can completely change the meaning of a word in some instances and how it really doesn’t matter all that much in other instances. Language is a tricky beast.

Oh and if you’re wondering why the Tassimo system uses T-discs rather than T-disks, I came up with this response: It’s closer to being optical media, because you need a laser to read its barcode. 😉