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Thread: British and American Spelling Differences

  1. #1
    MaiaMadness
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    British and American Spelling Differences

    I hope it's okay to post this here. If not, feel free to delete it.

    English is not my first language, and I know that there are other authors here who are only second language English speakers, or even third. To these people, I know it can be very dificult to be sure of which spelling to use when writing in American, British or any other form of English. I know there are differences when it comes to Canadian and Australian as well, but I'm not very familliar with these differences and so will not go into them.

    I figured this thread could act as a reference to people who are uncertain of which sort of spelling to use. I know MNFF allows both American and British (and any other official form you can think of) as long as it's consistent. No mixing them up, in other words.

    Being a language geek, and particularly an English geek, I have studied these differences rather thuroughly during my reading and writing "career". I'll start this thread off with some basic differences:

    S vs. Z
    A lot of places where the letter Z is used in American English, the British form uses S. This includes words like realize/realise, characterize/characterise, etc. Basically any word that ends in -ize/-ise.

    The Letter U
    In British English one uses the letter U in a lot of words where this letter is usually left out in American. These are words such as colour/color and favour/favor. Colour and favour are British forms, whereas color and favor are American.

    -er or -re
    In American English one has, for rather understandable reasons, switched around the last two letters of certain words, more specifically some words that end in -re in British English. The British theatre, metre and centre become theater, meter and center.

    These are the most immediate differences I could think of. I was thinking that if people have questions regarding words they're uncertain about the spelling of in American or British English, they could ask here. Hope I'm not out of line in creating this thread.

    Maia

  2. #2
    SiriuslyMental
    Guest
    Program = Programme

    Acclimate = Acclimatise

    Aluminum = Aluminium

    (This one is really optional, but I'll include it anyways) Tire (as in for a car) = Tyre

    Forward = Forwards

    Prophecy = Prophesy

    Other things I've noticed, more grammatically than spelling-wise -

    Americans put the full stop inside brackets or commas, but English people put it on the outside.


    Americans:

    He said that the brown box was not "square enough."
    Lucy thought that Harry was well fit (little did she know he secretly thought the same of her.)

    English:

    He said that the brown box was not "square enough".
    Lucy thought that Harry was well fit (little did she know he secretly thought the same of her).

    (This does not apply for speech).

    And Americans tend to use "real" for "really".

    "That shirt was real cool."

    "That shirt was really cool."

    Moderator's Edit: To clarify - yes, practice and practise are the noun and verb forms of the word, not a difference in spelling between Britain and America.

  3. #3
    cmwinters
    Guest
    Wikipedia was kind enough to post a fairly extensive article on this very topic!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/America...ng_differences

  4. #4
    Horsesbella219
    Guest
    Something i noticed when i was in new york, is that in restaurants, when you want the bill, you ask for the "Cheque" (sp?). Just thought i'd throw it in:

    Bill= Cheque (or is it check?)

  5. #5
    KJRowling
    Guest
    The word that really gets on my nerves is 'donut' - it's doughnut.

    Some Brits do spell metre as meter and centre as center. But that's really the younger generation, I say 'meter'. However theatre is usually theatre.

    And it's not spelling, but grammar: people from America seem to think that Devon is called Devonshire. No idea why.

    Horsesbella219 - Check = American word for Bill. A Cheque is the piece of paper you sign that works as a way of dealing with money from bank accounts. Just to tell you.
    And to comment on SiriuslyMental - there's an American spelling for tyre? I've never seen tire used in that context.

    As a note on cars - there are a lot of differences in the names of parts of a car - Hood/Bonnet being the most used.

  6. #6
    Lord Great Chamberlain
    Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by KJRowling
    people from America seem to think that Devon is called Devonshire. No idea why.
    Probably because Devonshire is the unofficial name for it, even used by many Brits. There are a number of products which are described as being Devonshire ______ and that could be a throw back to it being called Defenascire in the 2nd century.

  7. #7
    Rhi for HP
    Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by KJRowling
    And to comment on SiriuslyMental - there's an American spelling for tyre? I've never seen tire used in that context.
    Yes, in America we do say "tire" as in the things on cars...I never knew Brits had an alternate spelling for that!

    To add to the growing list here...

    Around -- round

    (is there ever a case where Brits would use "around" instead of "round"??)

    Tons (as in the measurement) -- Tonnes

    Toward -- towards (that's what I've always done; I didn't find out until a few days ago that it's apparently a British thing)

    Skeptical -- sceptical

    Bangs -- fringe (well, that's what my friend from New Zealand said; I'm not sure if it holds true to England)

    And then with quotation marks, in America we use the double ones: "," and if we have a quotation within a quotation, the singular ',' marks are used, whereas in Britain (and Australia, Canada?) it's reversed.

    Last thing I can think of is with titles. In America we write "Mr.Smith", but in Britain the period after titles like Mr, Mrs, Prof, etc. is left off. (Is the period after "etc." left off too?)

    I have a question: what do Brits call their country? United Kingdom? England? Britain? All of the above?

    EDIT:
    Quote Originally Posted by SiriuslyMental
    And Americans tend to use "real" for "really".

    "That shirt was real cool."

    "That shirt was really cool."
    Haha; yes, Americans do that...only if they have bad grammar. It can be a regional thing as well--the South, for example, tends to say "real" vs. "really" much more often. I'm from the Northwest and it's less common. I, for my part, will always correct people who fall into that manner of speaking. It's just not correct. ("Real" is my particular pet peeve. )

    ~Rhiannon~

  8. #8
    The Canon Queen Hufflepuff
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    Off the top of my head, I can think of these;

    mum- British, mom- American
    jumper- British, sweater- American
    snogging - British, kissing or making out- American

    When I was nine, I visited England to see relatives, my grandmother was a war-bride. At the time Snoopy versus the Red Baron was a popular song (hmm, dating myself a bit), I didn't understand why everyone got so upset when I would sing 'bloody red baron' until my cousin explained that bloody was a curse word. That has always stuck with me that in that song, they were cursing. Hey, when you are nine and you realize that you have been singing a song with a curse word and your mom doesn't even realize it is one.... Now, that was fun.

    Edit: I thought of something else, when my grandmother spoke, she never used the word my, she always said me. "Please go and get me purse."
    Terri Black (as in Mrs Sirius {aka Padfoot} Black)
    Hufflepuff Head of House


  9. #9
    apollo13
    Guest
    trunk = boot
    period = full stop (period over here has one meaning, and it is COMPLETELY different)
    pants = trousers (pants are underwear)
    diaper = nappy
    pacifier = dummy
    cot = only used for something a baby sleeps in
    cell phone = mobile phone
    prinicple = Headmaster/Headmistress/Head
    bangs = um... just hair. Locks of hair, maybe.

    There are others, but those are the most common ones.

    ~Evie

  10. #10
    bluexroses
    Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by SiriuslyMental
    Americans put the full stop inside brackets or commas, but English people put it on the outside.
    Actually we don't. Some people do use that, but it's incorrect. The period (full stop) usually comes after the closing parenthesis.
    Quote Originally Posted by Horsesbella219
    Something i noticed when i was in new york, is that in restaurants, when you want the bill, you ask for the "Cheque" (sp?). Just thought i'd throw it in:

    Bill= Cheque (or is it check?)
    It is check, but I'm pretty sure both bill and check can be used when paying at a restaurant. There's a phrase "foot the bill" which refers to paying the bill (especially if it's for a group).

    Quote Originally Posted by apollo13
    prinicple = Headmaster/Headmistress/Head
    It's actually spelled "principal" when referring to the head of a school. "Principle" is more like a rule.

    The only things I can think of off the top of my head are:
    battery -- cell
    apartment -- flat
    gray -- grey
    chips -- crisps
    fries -- chips

    Americans tend to spell words how they are spoken, and since American and British accents and styles of speaking are different, so is the spelling of words. Words have also evolved differently in the two countries because they are used differently.

    ~Ayesha

    Edit: This site has a good list of differences.

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