Up until now I have regarded one of my essential roles as a writer is that of being a safe-guarder of UK English. As a citizen of Great Britain, I have always considered it my patriotic duty to make sure that every piece of written copy that leaves my PC is formed using the spelling rules as laid down by my forefathers and not those of my transatlantic cousins.
My attitude has been strengthened over the years by working with Microsoft Word, as no matter what I try to do to change the settings on the ubiquitous program, the tool always seems to revert to the US version of our shared language. This is somewhat challenging to my endeavours… and right there is a very good example in itself. ‘Endeavours’ has just appeared with the familiar fuzzy red line underlining it to draw my attention to the fact that Word thinks it should be ‘endeavors.’ This daily spellcheck occurrence has led me to think all sorts of dark thoughts. Could it be that Microsoft is trying to impose US linguistic hegemony by making the settings on Word so arcane that they can’t be changed easily?
But I said ‘up until now’ as I am starting to come around to the idea that US English is, in fact, superior. Slowly but surely I am being converted to becoming an advocate for what I once considered a corruption of true English. Why? Only one reason really: logic. US English makes much more sense. It is simpler, it follows more sensible rules and it does away with superfluous letters.
Here are 10 examples that, for me at least, indicate that US English is, in fact, the way forward….
- Color v. colour: Do we really need the ‘U?’ No. Besides, in UK English we have the words ‘debtor’ and ‘juror’ and they are pronounced the same way but seem to make do without the extra letter. And why don’t us Brits pronounce ‘colour’ the same way we would the word ‘detour?’ Case closed.
- Words with a ‘Z’ instead of an ‘S’: Even before we get to the words, the Americans have a much better pronunciation for ‘Z’: ‘Zee’ instead of the UK English ‘Zed.’ When it comes to the words themselves, with two such examples being ‘realise’ and ‘organise,’ why are we using an ‘S’ when the sound given is that of a ‘Z?’ If UK English was consistent in its rule it would spell ‘citizen’ as ‘citisen,’ but of course it doesn’t.
- Mom v. Mum: The familiar abbreviated endearment for ‘mother.’ I know the US spelling annoys the British as much as the UK spelling irritates the Americans, but I have to say that it is my colonial colleagues who have the more logical approach once again. After all, we both spell ‘son’ with an ‘O’ so the same pronunciation rule should apply here.
- Gray v. grey: ‘Bay,’ ‘Day,’ ‘Hay,’ ‘Lay,’ ‘May,’ ‘Pay,’ ‘Say…’ all pronounced the same. For some reason, in UK English, we use an E’ instead of an ‘A’ for this particular word that has an identical pronunciation and I really can’t see why.
- Center v. centre: Another UK English anomaly. We both spell ‘enter’ the same way, so why does UK English swap the last two letters around when a ‘C’ is added at the beginning of the word and the pronunciation is still the same?
- Tire v. tyre: I’m not sure why we need to replace the perfectly good ‘I’ with a ‘Y’ here in UK English either. I mean, we don’t put out a ‘fyre’ and we don’t ‘hyre’ a car do we?
- Certain words that place an ‘A’ before an ‘E’: I’m thinking of predominantly medical words in this context, such as the UK English ‘haematology,’ ‘paediatric’ and ‘gynaecology’ and their US English counterparts ‘hematology,’ ‘pediatric’ and ‘gynecology.’ There is no need for the ‘A’ at all – the US English versions are much cleaner and more efficient.
- Plow v. plough: The ‘ough’ rule is one of the most perplexing in both UK and US English. The words ‘through,’ ‘bough,’ ‘rough’ and ‘dough’ all have the same ending but are pronounced differently. You can argue that words that end in ‘ow’ follow different rules as well (think of the two ways to pronounce ‘row’) but the US English ‘plow’ does seem a simpler and more natural choice here.
- Donut v. doughnut: As above, there are too many interpretations for ‘ough’ for me to make ‘doughnut’ the version of choice. The US English ‘donut’ is simpler, shorter… and sweeter.
- Mustache v. moustache: If the stress on the first syllable in the UK English version followed the ‘ou’ rule as in ‘house,’ ‘louse’ and ‘mouse,’ then ‘moustache’ would be pronounced differently. The US version logically follows the first syllable stress of ‘must,’ ‘dust’ and ‘rust.’ Another natural choice.
So there you have it – 10 reasons why I am coming around to the notion that US English is the better form of our shared language. Slowly but surely I am moving away from my nation’s idiosyncratic spelling eccentricities that characterise (and that should really be ‘characterize’) most aspects of ‘Englishness.’ Just please don’t tell my fellow countrymen…