Thursday, July 3, 2008

Canadian Spelling of English

When people think of English spelling, they tend to think of British and American spellings. Canadians, however, tend to use a combination of both. This is certainly true in my case. When I was learning to spell in elementary school, my teachers said that we could use either the American or the British spelling of a word, but we had to be consistent.

With words that end in either -or or -our, I use the British spelling. With younger Canadians, though, it appears that American spellings are becoming increasingly popular. Examples of such words include "neighbour", "favourite", "honour", "labour", "colour", "savour", "flavour" and "harbour". With words that end in either -er or -re, I also use the British variant- i.e., "centre", "metre", "theatre", "litre" and "fibre".

I use the British spellings "catalogue" and "dialogue" rather than the American "catalog" and "dialog" and "pyjamas" instead of "pajamas". I double the "l" in words such as "traveller", "cancelled" and "dialling" and use a single "l" in "skilful" and "wilful".

I also use the spellings "grey", "manoeuvre", "judgement", "axe" and "cheque"rather than "gray", "maneuver", "judgment", "ax" and "check". Note that Americans also use the spelling "grey" in the word "greyhound". I use the spelling "practise" for the verb ("practice" for the noun) rather than the American spelling "practice" and I use the spellings "licence" and "defence" rather than "license" and "defense".

All these examples may give the impression that I use British spellings exclusively, but this is far from the case. I use the spellings "realize", "organize" and "civilization" rather than the spellings "realise", "organise" and "civilisation" which are often used in British spelling. British English, however, also allows the spellings used in American English.

I also use the American spellings "mom", "program", "kilogram", "tire" (a car tire), "buses", "focusing" and "curb" rather than "mum", "programme", "kilogramme", "tyre", "busses", "focussing" and "kerb". The spellings "kilogramme","tyre" and "kerb" are very unusual in Canada.

Though I use the American spelling "mom", I use the British pronunciation of this word. For me, the word "mom" rhymes with "come" and not with "palm" as is the case in American English. This example serves to illustrate that Canadian English is often a variety of English that reflects both British and American influences.

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