Put though the wringer vs put through the ringer

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The idioms put through the wringer and put through the ringer are sometimes confusing. We will examine the definition of the phrases put through the wringer and put through the ringer, where these expressions came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

To put someone through the wringer means to make them suffer, to scrutinize them closely, to question and interrogate them thoroughly. For the most part when someone is said to have been put through the wringer, it means they have been through some sort of ordeal, whether through circumstance, chance, or design. The expression put through the wringer refers to an antique washing machine. Before the electric washing machine, women washed their soiled clothes in an appliance consisting of a washtub and a roller. In an old washing machine, hot water was poured into the basin, dirty clothes were added and agitation was achieved with the hands or a stick. Once finished with the clothes washing, a stopper was pulled and the soapy water was allowed to drain. Then the tub was filled with fresh water in order to rinse the clothes. This was an improvement over simple wash tubs or hand washing clothes in a river. Clothing was cranked through the rollers  so that excess water was squeezed out of it, making it easier for hanging drying clothes on the clothesline. These rollers were called a mangle, as running the device could be dangerous. Using a clothes wringer that was a hand crank could be difficult and take great strength. It was easy to get one’s hand caught and mangled, especially when the electric crank was invented. Once the laundry went through the wringer washer and was merely damp rather than soaking wet, the wet clothes were hung on the line. Though hanging laundry outside is tedious, clothes dried outside usually smell fresher than those put through a clothes dryer. When using your top loading or front loading clothes washer, remember poor Grandma and the effort she had to go to to wash clothes, a dreadful chore. The idiom put through the wringer comes from the process of washing clothes and using a wringer to squeeze out water. While it appeared sometime after the turn of the twentieth century, the popularity of the idiom peaked in the 1940s.

The phrase put through the ringer is an eggcorn, which is a misheard word or phrase that retains the original meaning of the word or phrase. It is always incorrect. The word ringer refers to a thing that rings, and has no relation to the noun wringer.


It’s been put through the wringer by a number of reviewers, but many have been waiting on the DoXmark testing numbers to be announced. (Forbes Magazine)

Put through the wringer in the wake of the Mad Monday fallout, Canterbury is entitled to another party – albeit more subdued one – after crashing Newtown’s parade. (The Sydney Morning Herald)

The way the sexual assault allegations against Brett Kavanaugh were handled “was a disservice to the American public,” says Anita Hill, nearly three decades after she was put through the wringer for making similar claims. (The New York Daily News)