Wednesday, October 14, 2009

English - From UK to US

Contd from Bangalorisation of English 3.

There was a time when the English in use in India was completely UK-English. I remember spelling "colour", "honour" and "neighbour" in school, without any confusion or fore/after-thought. Then somewhere around 15 years ago, things began to change, when my attention was elsewhere. Then- when I looked again, everywhere there were "color", "honor" and "neighbor", spellings changed, pronunciations changed. No, not everywhere. Newspapers stayed loyal to the older version - they do, to this day. However, hoardings, displays and other miscellaneous territories were taken over by this new(US) version of English.

The problem with smooth transition to the new English was that no one realised that such a transition has happened. People thought they had been spelling words and articulating all wrong, all this time. It is a foreign language, anyway. One never knows.

When I started writing - like, serious writing - I did not pay much attention to "what English" I was using. What English, as in UK English, US English, Canadian, Australian, etc. ('Indian' English being mostly identified by the mixed-up grammar due to direct translation from the Mother-tongue and pronunciations, and rarely by the spellings.) The result was a splash of color, honour, neighbors, recognise, realize and so on. Looking back now, I guess I failed to even notice the red underline that the very helpful MS Word and other word editors provided.

Then one day I decided that I shall be following the Mother of all English, the Queen's English, otherwise known as UK English, from now on. Once this decision was reached, it was essential to know the differences between the most common two versions found in this region - UK and US.

The last three years have been an eye-opener for me in terms of my acquaintance with the language. Once I decided that I will follow UK English (primarily, - for I cannot keep away the expressions that diffuse from different parts of the world, the 'American', 'British' and 'Indian' versions, and I can hardly identify them for where they belong!), it was imperative that I know what the differences between the two were. So, my saviour Google came to my aid. (I list a few of them here, the remaining can be found in the sites I have mentioned below.)

* British English words that end in -re (e.g. centre, fibre, theatre) often end in -er in American English (center, fiber, theater).

* British English words that end in -our (e.g. colour, humour) usually end with -or in American English (color, humor).

* Verbs in British English that can be spelled with either -ize or -ise at the end (e.g. recognize/recognise) are always spelled with -ize in American English.

* Verbs in British English that end in -yse (e.g. analyse) are always spelled -yze in American English (analyze).

* In British spelling, verbs ending in a vowel plus l double the l when adding endings that begin with a vowel (e.g. travel, travelled, traveller). In American English the l is not doubled (travel, traveled, traveler).

* British English words that are spelled with the double vowels ae or oe (e.g. archaeology, manoeuvre) are just spelled with an e in American English (archeology, maneuver).

* Some nouns that end with -ence in British English (e.g. licence, defence) are spelled -ense in American English (license, defense).

* Some nouns that end with -ogue in British English (e.g. dialogue) end with -og in American English (dialog).

The above listed information has been taken from the following sites:

I do not know the Canadian or Australian versions of the language, are they similar to US or UK, or much different?
Welcome any thoughts on this!


  1. Don't worry about giving up on US English. Most of us haven't figured out that "Bombay/Mumbai" thing yet, so fair is fair.

  2. Oh no - just that one needs to stick to either US or UK version and not a mix of both. Preferably.

    Regarding Bombay/Mumbai, maybe this post will make some sense.

  3. Canadian follows the British version. This list explains a few things for me though..."traveled" looks wrong to me...I would spell it travelled...but i get edited by my American syndicate to a single "l"...and then I begin to question my memory and spelling skills...I always get confused with the ize and ise as well. Too much cross culture!

  4. Sandra! A pleasure to have you visiting!
    And thanks for that info on the Canadian version.

  5. I was taught British spelling growing up in the 60's and 70's in Western Australia, then i went to live in the UK as an adult. I was there for 15 years, and when i came back, suddenly US spelling had taken over and even in the newspapers they will use "jailbird" instead of "gaolbird". I honestly cannot type 'surprized' without shuddering, lol, so i too have Word set to UK English.

    As you said, you just need to pick one - then even if you have to change, if your book's being published overseas, most of the work can be done quickly, by switching Word to the right language, and saying, Spellcheck.

    Here it's very much a generational thing. I remember being pulled up and told i was wrong when i used a US spelling in school (after i'd read it in a book), but now that same spelling wouldn't be wrong. *shrugs* I can only imagine what my old teachers would think of textspeak :)

  6. Thanks so much for visiting and sharing your thoughts, stinginthetail!
    I never knew that the US/UK spelling confusion exists in Australia too!

  7. no worries, Jean - a pleasure - i've a soft spot for India and all things Indian, so it's fascinating to see how India is also changing with the global Americanisation of our cultures. Like Australia, many young Indian people attend college in the US, and of course you're getting more and more TV, which means you're guaranteed exposure to more US culture.

    You do get some strange ideas arriving with the US invasion - I find it interesting when Australians, brainwashed by US TV or the net, try to tell me "we've got the right to bear arms, it's in our constitution" - no, we don't, lol.

    (The only rights Australians have are to cross state borders without hindrance - our federal constitution was drawn up in 1901, in some cases less than 35 years after the convicts stopped arriving - there are no real citizen's rights, especially not to arms or free speech.)