Question: “Dear Grammar Guy, can you explain the difference between ‘cache’ and ‘cachet?’ Are they just alternate spellings of the same word?”
Answer: Hey, I know this one! Grammar column: Engage.
If you’ve ever been geocaching – a sort of scavenger hunt involving clues and GPS coordinates – you know what I’m about to say: a “cache” is a storage place or a collection of items stored in a hidden or inaccessible place. Squirrels have caches. Pirates have caches. Squirrel pirates would have caches, but they have better things to do.
A “cachet,” on the other hand, has less to do with hiding things and much more to do with making them distinguishable. A “cachet” is a distinguishing mark or seal, or, more abstractly, the state of being distinguished, respected or admired (ex. “Few world leaders had the cachet of Nelson Mandela.”).
A “cachet” can also be a flat capsule inside which a dose of medicine is stored.
Now, you may be saying, “Fine, Grammar Guy, I get the definition. But how do you pronounce these words?” If you would just have a little patience, I was getting to that.
“Cache” is pronounced like the sort of thing you might hide inside – “cash.” And, while they’re both French words, “cachet” is the one that sounds most like its French roots: “cash-ay.” It’s kind of fun to say, really.
So there we go: We learned two new words, and how to say them, and maybe even a bit about a new hobby. I’m talking about squirrel pirating, of course. We can leave the geocaching to someone else.