Column: Cache, cachet and cash


Question: I need some help here: I see the words “cache” and “cachet” more and more often, and I want to make sure I’m using them correctly. Are they interchangeable?

Answer: If there’s a recurring theme in these columns, it’s that words that came to us from French often trip us up. That’s certainly the case here. Let’s see what we can do.

“Cache” is the more likely of the two words for you to be familiar with. It means a “collection of items of the same type stored in a hidden or inaccessible place” – or sometimes just the hiding place itself. It’s also used in computing to refer to a temporary storage space, like your browser cache. Speaking of which … never hurts to clear that out, folks.

“Cachet” you don’t see as much – or at least I don’t. It means a “distinguishing mark or seal,” like the kind you might find on an official correspondence. However, these days it’s used more figuratively to mean “the state of being respected or admired; prestige.” For example: Julia would like to make some changes around the office, but she doesn’t have the cachet to accomplish it.

“Cash” is a homophone of “cache.” It makes the world go round and may or may not lead to happiness and/or all evil. The jury’s out on that one. You could have a cache of cash, I suppose, but your money’s probably better off in a mutual fund. Then again, I’m a grammar columnist – I wouldn’t look to me for investment advice. Do clear out your browser cache, though. You’ll thank me for it.