BE And AE: Spelling Differe

The following observations on spelling differences are intended to give the reader a general picture of variation between the British and American norms. It is interesting to note that although Ameri­can grammatical and lexical usage is universal in Canada, some publishing houses there still follow the British spelling conventions. More popular writing, however, follows the American pattern.

In unstressed syllables British -our becomes -or, cf. color, honor, tumor; however, in stressed syllables, American spelling retains -our: hour, devour. In all cases except the more recent French loan words such as genre (first recorded 1816), British -re becomes -er, as in theater. Note that in British English spelling this change had already taken place in French words such as lettre that had been borrowed in the Middle English period.

Verbs end in –se , as license, practise and advise, and nouns end in -ce, as licence, practice and advice. The last word serves as a good mnemonic device (as do the pair device/devise) to remind us of the distinction, as the spelling distinction here fol­lows a clearly marked phonemic distinction. Words where there is no phonemic distinction follow the same pattern. In American spelling all homophonous pairs have the same spelling for noun and verb: -se, thus pretense, license, practise. Nouns which have no homophonous verb forms also follow this spelling in America : offense, defense (offence and defence in Britain ). Note that there are some nouns in British English, such as expense, which do not end in -ce.

The basis of the above American reform was phonetic, the desire to make spelling reflect the sounds. Another clear case of this trend is the standard suflix -ize in American English to represent the voiced sibilant as against -ise or -ize in British English. In American English, -ize is recognised as a verb-forming suffix^ cf. advert: advertize. However, the noun advertisement is still spelt with an -s-. Usage varies a great deal, especially in British English.

A final consonant is often doubled in British English when a suffix is added to a word, cf. levelling, bejewelled, travelling. It is not added in American English except in such cases where failure to do so would lead to clear pronunciation changes on the basis of the well established rules of pronunciation for Eng­lish. Thus occurrence must have a double -r- in both varieties to preserve the original vowel sound. However, there are times when even this consideration does not lead to doubling in American spelling, cf. programing (normally in American usage it is not doubled). Note that sometimes the difference exists in the base form, thus we have install in British English and instal in American. Most curious is the fact that we have just the opposite in fulfil ( Br. ) and fulfill (Am.). Many remnants of original French spelling in British English disappear in American, thus we have in American program instead of pro­gramme, demagog instead of demagogue, check instead of cheque (meaning a means of bank payment), and jail instead of gaol.

There is a clear tendency in American spelling to replace a -y- by an -i- in tyre and syphon (tire and siphon), and to replace pyjamas by pajamas; aeroplane becomes airplane and plough becomes plow. Then there are one or two words which lose an -i- completely, with a cor­responding change in pronunciation, cf. British aluminium, American aluminum, British speciality, American specialty.

Spelling has always been much taught in schools on both sides of the Atlantic , mainly because uniformity is considered desirable and it is easy to be authoritative about spelling, one merely has to check a dictionary. However, it is important to realise that there are still today many minor differences, particularly in areas such as the doubling of final consonants when suffixes are added. Reference to a good dictionary such as Webster’s, an Oxford dictionary or the Advanced Learner’s Dictionary is the best solution not because that dictionary will have the only correct form, but because it will at least be consistent. Needless to add, only the larger dictionaries have space to give the spellings for different forms of the same word.

Finally, we mention a relatively new spelling phenomenon in North America , this being the simplification of spelling in some very popular writing such as comic strips or commercial notices. We can see adverts for nu-way kleeners, u-drtve cars, and brite lites that shine thru the nite. Such spelling has not spread to Britain , and is unlikely to spread beyond the banner-type language where it is chiefly found in the United States.

BE And AE: Spelling Differences

The following observations on spelling differences are intended to give the reader a general picture of variation between the British and American norms. It is interesting to note that although Ameri­can grammatical and lexical usage is universal in Canada , some publishing houses there still follow the British spelling conventions. More popular writing, however, follows the American pattern.

In unstressed syllables British -our becomes -or, cf. color, honor, tumor; however, in stressed syllables, American spelling retains -our: hour, devour. In all cases except the more recent French loan words such as genre (first recorded 1816), British -re becomes -er, as in theater. Note that in British English spelling this change had already taken place in French words such as lettre that had been borrowed in the Middle English period.

Verbs end in –se , as license, practise and advise, and nouns end in -ce, as licence, practice and advice. The last word serves as a good mnemonic device (as do the pair device/devise) to remind us of the distinction, as the spelling distinction here fol­lows a clearly marked phonemic distinction. Words where there is no phonemic distinction follow the same pattern. In American spelling all homophonous pairs have the same spelling for noun and verb: -se, thus pretense, license, practise. Nouns which have no homophonous verb forms also follow this spelling in America : offense, defense (offence and defence in Britain ). Note that there are some nouns in British English, such as expense, which do not end in -ce.

The basis of the above American reform was phonetic, the desire to make spelling reflect the sounds. Another clear case of this trend is the standard suflix -ize in American English to represent the voiced sibilant as against -ise or -ize in British English. In American English, -ize is recognised as a verb-forming suffix^ cf. advert: advertize. However, the noun advertisement is still spelt with an -s-. Usage varies a great deal, especially in British English.

A final consonant is often doubled in British English when a suffix is added to a word, cf. levelling, bejewelled, travelling. It is not added in American English except in such cases where failure to do so would lead to clear pronunciation changes on the basis of the well-established rules of pronunciation for Eng­lish. Thus occurrence must have a double -r- in both varieties to preserve the original vowel sound. However, there are times when even this consideration does not lead to doubling in American spelling, cf. programing (normally in American usage it is not doubled). Note that sometimes the difference exists in the base form, thus we have install in British English and instal in American. Most curious is the fact that we have just the opposite in fulfil ( Br. ) and fulfill (Am.). Many remnants of original French spelling in British English disappear in American, thus we have in American program instead of pro­gramme, demagog instead of demagogue, check instead of cheque (meaning a means of bank payment), and jail instead of gaol.

There is a clear tendency in American spelling to replace a -y- by an -i- in tyre and syphon (tire and siphon), and to replace pyjamas by pajamas; aeroplane becomes airplane and plough becomes plow. Then there are one or two words which lose an -i- completely, with a cor­responding change in pronunciation, cf. British aluminium, American aluminum, British speciality, American specialty.

Spelling has always been much taught in schools on both sides of the Atlantic, mainly because uniformity is considered desirable and it is easy to be authoritative about spelling, one merely has to check a dictionary. However, it is important to realise that there are still today many minor differences, particularly in areas such as the doubling of final consonants when suffixes are added. Reference to a good dictionary such as Webster’s, an Oxford dictionary or the Advanced Learner’s Dictionary is the best solution not because that dictionary will have the only correct form, but because it will at least be consistent. Needless to add, only the larger dictionaries have space to give the spellings for different forms of the same word.

Finally, we mention a relatively new spelling phenomenon in North America, this being the simplification of spelling in some very popular writing such as comic strips or commercial notices. We can see adverts for nu-way kleeners, u-drtve cars, and brite lites that shine thru the nite. Such spelling has not spread to Britain, and is unlikely to spread beyond the banner-type language where it is chiefly found in the United States.