flack, flak

Although they sound the same, their spellings differ by only one letter, they are often confused with one another, and they appeared in English at about the same time, flack and flak are very different words, with very different origins.

In the age department, flack edges out its competitor. The word was supposedly coined in Variety, the newspaper of the entertainment industry, but I’ve been unable to find early citations from this source. The earliest I’ve found is from the 25 February 1937 Oakland Tribune:

Whereupon Paramount elected to cash in on the publicity and the flack as Variety calls press agents, leaped to his typing machine.

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