God Might Not Judge, But We Do is an ongoing series that aims not only to complain, but to explain why some behaviors go beyond cultural differences and cross over into being completely and totally judge worthy. Learn more about GMNJ, But We Do here, and remember we’re Just Not That Way.
Note: American spelling is in Italics unless otherwise clarified.
Chapter 3: UK vs. US Spelling
Hold my earrings and my iPhone, because things are about to get serious. As a traveller, I often find… Wait stop. As a traveler, I often find that many people think the only difference between British and American English is our slang, and where we put our commas. However, it is the difference in spelling that I feel causes the most confusion.
Many of you are aware that British and American spelling differ, however not everyone is aware. We have certainly come across this confusion since starting our blog.
Cristina was educated in the British educational system, whereas I was educated in the American educational system. Therefore, we frequently spell and punctuate differently.
The world travel and its variants are the most obvious examples of where we often deviate.
UK vs. US
Travelling – Traveling
Traveller – Traveler
It should be noted that both UK and US spelling are considered correct. Although, I have no doubt some Brits might say otherwise.
Understanding where these discrepancies in spelling come from is important not only for those learning English, but for native speakers as well.
Prior to 1828, many words, such as humor (or humour), defense (or defence) and fiber (or fibre), had two acceptable spellings on both sides of the Atlantic, as they are not English in origin.
It was during this time that an American by the name of Merriam Webster (as in the dictionary) selected his favourite…. no favorite forms of each word to compile and publish. His dictionary would radically alter the evolution of the English language. He substantiated his choices several ways, but ultimately wanted American spelling to be different from and superior to, British spelling. In Webster’s defence or rather defense, his book successfully established its authority throughout the United States. His spellings created a separate school of English known as American English.
I’m going to briefly highlight the primary differences in spelling between each school.
Redcoats vs. Yanks
1. ‘ou’ or ‘o’
As in: colour/color – humour/humor
2. The switched ‘re’
As in: theatre/theater – centre/center
3. ‘ise’ or ‘ize’
As in: realise/realize – organise/organize
4. ‘yse’ or ‘yze’
As in: analyse/analyze – paralyse/paralyze
5. The extra ‘L’
As in: traveller/traveler – travelling/traveling
6. The missing vowel
As in: oestrogen/estrogen – paedophile/pedophile
7. Ence’ or ‘Ense’
As in: offence/offense – licence/license
8. The ‘ogue’ debate
As in: analogue/analog – dialogue/dialog
(You can find more detailed information about these differences here.)
Now, I have a few casual observations and haphazard opinions of Webster’s spelling preferences. They are as follows…
He loved the letter Z. It made him happy.
He found the letter U to be frequently redundant.
He was pissed of by the double L, but not always.
He really hated the British.
He had the blind confidence of a sociopath.
“For anyone who sets out to change the spelling of a language must indeed have a great personality disorder.” – Katherine, JNTW
This divergence in spelling represents a time in history that the American people were desperate to break away from from the British. It is also one of the things that surprises many Brits and Americans alike when they travel across the pond. Most people have pretty strong spelling preferences. However, even in America, some British spellings are still the standard.
UK vs. US
Glamour – Glamor
Despite glamor being the official American spelling, glamour is used about five times more often in the United States. Personally, although I write mostly using American spelling, I visually prefer ‘ou’ over ‘o’; as seen in words like flavour, colour, behaviour, and honour.For this reason I sometimes make the stylistic choice to use UK spelling.
Which countries use British English and which countries use American English will likely depend on who colonized them first. (Hint: It was probably the British.)
For those of you that want to know more about what words are spelt differently on each side of the pond here is a comprehensive list of UK vs US spelling.
Be Just Not That Way,
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