There are some people out there who will tell you that the word barbecue comes from French barbe a queue, or "beard to tail". Don't listen to those people. The noun is from the 1690s, but the verb is from the 1660s, and it came from Spanish barbacoa, not French. This is a remnant of Spanish occupation of the Caribbean, from either southern Florida or one of the greater Antilles, where natives used a word like barabicu or barbakoa (accounts vary) to describe their practice of roasting animals on a grid of wooden sticks. Metynomically, the word originally meant "wooden framework" in general. This is from one of the Arawakan tongues, from a theorized Proto-Macro-Arawakan source language. With no writings, it's hard to philologize such languages. Anyway, after barbecue was passed from Spanish American colonists to English American colonists, it obtained several different spellings and abbreviations, like bar-b-q, BBQ, barbeque, 'que, 'cue, and barb-b-que. The q for c substitution is partly because of that folk etymology I already discussed and partly because it just sounds like it should be spelled that way.
Adam Aleksic is a sophomore studying linguistics and government at Harvard University. He also has disturbing interests in politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, and law.