Saturday, November 04, 2006

how do you spell that?

I was writing a post a couple of weeks ago and ran into something that has become an increasing problem for me: spelling. Now don't get me wrong. My eyes may glaze over the minute you mention chemistry or finance, and trying to fix a cabinet door is a guarantee that I will end up kicking it into next week out of impatience and frustration, but spelling has always been something I can do. I wowed 'em in school whenever I did any kind of English aptitude test. But in this case, a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, and my tendency to want to sample everything, even spelling styles, has been causing me grief.

As a kid I learned to spell the Canadian way ... mostly ... except I was addicted first to British pony books and then to anything with an orange spine (selective literary snobbery) so had also received a heavy dose of English spelling and have never, therefore, been able to decide whether I want to spell it 'realise' or 'realize'. I took a purist approach for awhile, probably borne from the typical defensiveness of the Canadian whose culture is regularly stomped on by the Goliath to the south. When Yanks and Brits divided the spelling world into the American way and the English way my knickers would get soundly knotted: "No -- it's the American way and the way the bloody rest-of-the-English-speaking-world spells it. We Canadians, Australians, South Africans, New Zealanders, etc., are not British even if we share the same spelling." I was, of course, ignoring the fact that in spite of my loyalty to centre and cheque, I wasn't likely to be using aluminium or aeroplane anytime soon.

So when I got kicked to the curb/kerb by defence/defense recently I decided to do a little on-line sleuthing and came up with this fabulous page: http://www3.telus.net/linguisticsissues/BritishCanadianAmerican.htm
It has a place of honour (not honor) at the top of my bookmarks. Now I can colour outside the lines with a little more knowledge and a little less hit-or-miss. Check it out, eh?

18 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed your post about words and spelling! Please continue Colouring outside the lines. I found your blog after visiting Jessica Torrent's. I really enjoyed looking at your paintings too.

4/11/06 9:34 AM  
Blogger Within Without said...

Brilliant topic, A, especially for a journalist who's probably a better editor than writer.

I live this every day, in ways most couldn't comprehend. I instantly analyse (not analyze)every word for style and grammar, every hyphen, misplaced apostrophe, errant punctuation.

Different Canadian publications have different styles, as in colour vs. color, analyse vs. analyze, as you so succintly state.

A fun and insightful post from someone whose writing skills rival anyone's.

4/11/06 9:59 AM  
Blogger Ces said...

Hello Andrea,

I think you know I have been trying to come up with courage to say hello to you and let you know that ever since I "blogger-saw" you at Andrea Edward's late blog, I have always admired your art. Anyway, I have been visiting your blog and never really had the courage to say I admired it wholeheartedly. I also read your comments at KJ's. Anyway, your post about spelling is fantastic. I may be gushing with compliments but I mean every word. Not only are you a magnificent painter you are also an excellent writer.

As far as the Canadians and the Goliath of the south, rest assured, blogger is playing favorites with you today :-)

4/11/06 10:50 AM  
Blogger Brian the Mennonite said...

Wow...really nice comments so far.
That was a great post, Andrea. I visited the site, and I'll have to bookmark that one for school too. I always like to promote "the Canadian way" whenever possible.
Good day, eh.

4/11/06 1:09 PM  
Blogger Reluctant Nomad said...

Clever, talented woman - time to nominate you! :-)

4/11/06 2:27 PM  
Anonymous wagonized said...

Loved your post about spelling. It was a battle for me growing up in France and learning English as a second language. I was drawn to the American ("Webster") spelling and my teachers were (politically or philosophically) opposed to it. Ha.
And Andrea, your Oct. 29th ("birdland") post is amazing. What a thrill it is to see the different stages of your beautiful work.

4/11/06 5:32 PM  
Blogger Caroline said...

Its odd being English and having people say that what they are speaking / writing is English but doesn't sound it / look it... of course I'm refering to the Scots... ;-)

5/11/06 2:15 AM  
Anonymous cream said...

When I go to the pictures (movies...)I find that Americanisms are invading our screens from the popcorn ads to the spelling of theater...Arghhhh.
No wonder today's kids use SMS spelling even in their exams!
R U with me?

5/11/06 2:58 AM  
Blogger Ces said...

I think that phrases like "R U with me" and spelling like "Kwik copies" are not Americansim but multiculturalism and in my opinion the dumbing of America. Count yourselves very lucky. You should live down here in a border state where the newspaper reading level is at fourth grade and the spelling is atrocious. In some facilities the instructions are entirely in Spanish. It is very pathetic. I should have immigrated to Canada, hmmn maybe not - it too cold up there.

5/11/06 6:54 AM  
Blogger andrea said...

Cynthia: Thanks!

WW: You're a peach. I once spent a year doing a form of editing, too (not to mention the dozens/hundreds of hours I've spent marking student work) and it scarred me for life!

Ces: Talked to you already! :)

Nomad: Excellent idea. Wait a minute ... nominate me for *what*?

Wagonized: It must be hard for Americans to put up with the arrogant and/or purist attitude towards Englsih spelling outside their own borders but hey -- they're the ones who changed it.

Brian: The next generation is in your hands. Brainwa... er "guide" them wisely! Mwahahaha

Caroline: Hee hee ... but wait! I have heard as many Americans say they speak American as speak English, so you're off the hook in one country anyway.

Cream: I've noticed how it's unconsiously crept into our culture, too, without us noticing. It was encouraging to see that Krispy Kreme, that All-American institution, calls them Doughnuts rather than Donuts when they opened a shop up here. Or was that a concession to being in Canada I wonder?

5/11/06 12:34 PM  
Blogger Homo Escapeons said...

Like the song by Stealers Wheel we are 'Stuck in the middle with you'...as you can see having French Norman Kings rule England for 300 years added thousands of French words and spellings to the English language.

Lazy ass American English, or Merkin as I like to call it, will soon give way to slang and e-speak like LOL and abt and all of those other abreviations. Spelling will be gnawed down to consonants and a single vowel or even back to dots and dashs..it is certainly going to degrade.

English is the global language now because it absorbs all others..
which is the reason that its next morph will be a sudden transformation into an Oriental sounding language.
Hang on..here we go.

5/11/06 5:35 PM  
Blogger andrea said...

HE: That old chestnut "It's Greek to me," is *so* wrong. With the mish-mash that is English it should be "It's English to me" ... except that wouldn't work of course for us. Greek may have some 'funny' letters and unfamiliar stresses but, unlike English, it's a completely logical/phonetic language without a thousand synonyms from a dozen languages (or so it seems) for each word.

5/11/06 5:51 PM  
Blogger kj said...

andrea, what a topic. i've never thought about alternate spellings: must be my new england background. i'm having enough trouble spelling--period. outside the blogs i would never let an incorrect spelling go, but here my fingers fly on the keyboard and i only hope for the best.

:)

5/11/06 10:05 PM  
Blogger Carlotti said...

Great post. My last comment seems to have disappeared into cyberspace, so if I'm repeating myself, that's why.....

One of my pet peeve spelling errors is the word cheque.

6/11/06 6:05 AM  
Anonymous chitty said...

Thanks for the link. It will come in handy indeed. It is tough competing with the Americans.

6/11/06 11:09 AM  
Blogger The Daring One said...

I am often unsure about which spelling to use. I grew up in Canada but moved to the US before college so I have a terrible mix. I can't really blame my spelling on anything but sloppiness now. I'll have to use that reference and decide what I want my spelling to say about my patriotism.

6/11/06 6:12 PM  
Blogger LDahl said...

'Merican! Heheh! I love English novels, BBC and I really enjoy watching Time Team. This is a great time as we get to read, hear and enjoy so much variety. Blogging has brought me into the lives of so many Canadians, it's been an honour to meet ya'll.:)

7/11/06 5:04 PM  
Blogger tlc illustration said...

Hey Andrea - blogger hasn't let me comment for days!

Very interesting post, and something I have not thought about much. Between living close to the Canadian border and reading so many British-based novels, my spelling is also a mish-mash of mixed heritage. Well, maybe not my spelling as much as my reading. I find that I don't even notice many of the spelling differences anymore when I read.

Language is such an interesting thing, isn't it?

7/11/06 10:12 PM  

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