It’s a phrase you have surely heard hundreds of times over the years, but when it’s time to get to the point, do you end it with adieu or ado?
If you listen to the subtle difference with the pair of words adieu or ado, you might think you’re dealing with another set of homophones. Homophones are words that sound alike but are spelled differently and have different meanings. There is a slight difference in pronunciation, though. So you may have trouble making the homophone argument.
In any case, though there is a modest difference in how you say the two words, they’re close enough to be confused easily.
So let’s take the phrase, “Without further __________.” We use it to mean, “without further delay.”
Should the word adieu or ado go in that blank? Let’s take a quick look at the two words. (And of course, I’ll explain how “The Bard,” William Shakespeare, plays into all of this.)
The French word adieu can be pronounced two ways. The first is “ah-DOO,” and the second is “ah-DYOO,” in which the second syllable sounds like the word dew.
English speakers “borrowed” adieu from French but I don’t think we’re fooling anyone when we use it. Some say it as an interjection. Others might get a big more formal with the phrase, “I bid you adieu.” Vocabulary.com suggests that a simple goodbye can get boring and for those who want to spice up their vocabulary, adieu became a popular choice.
The word ado dates back to the 14th century and means “conflict, fighting; difficulty, or trouble.” By the 15th century, a weaker meaning, “a fuss,” came into play. The Online Etymology Dictionary tells us it served as a contraction of “at do,” which meant, “a to-do.” To make a to-do out of something was to unnecessarily complicate things.
You may have heard of Shakespeare’s play, “Much Ado About Nothing,” which made its premiere in the year 1600. The play revolves around two romantic pairings that emerge when a group of soldiers arrive in the town of Messina. The nothing in the title referred to “gossip and rumor,” and the title as a whole referred to the secrets and trickery that form the backbone of the play’s plot.
If someone makes a “to-do” about something, they’re placing a lot more importance on it than is appropriate. Thus, ado takes on the similar meaning.
Back to the opening question
From all of that, you should be able to conclude that it’s ado, not adieu, that completes the phrase, “without further ado.”
When we use that phrase, we’re typically saying, “without delaying things any further,” while simultaneously implying that doing so would be unnecessary.
So now that you know that ado is the correct choice, I’ll bid you a temporary adieu…until the next post, of course!