Ozzie in Oregon

Separated by a common language


Last updated:    October 26, 2009 (PST)


It's all thanks to Webster!

Before I came over here, I knew that some words were spelt differently here.  For instance, Americans drop the "u" in some words, thus "humour", "colour", "neighbour" and "favourite" become "humor", "color", "neighbor" and "favorite".  And the "ise"-"ize" thing ("organise" becomes "organize", etc).

But I hadn't realised, er, realized that a guy named Noah Webster went out of his way to "simplify" the language back in the early 1800s when he was writing his dictionary, giving me all these complications down the track.

So "re" becomes "er", making "centre" "center".  And while I think of it, "ce" becomes "se" as in "Defence"/"Defense" and "licence"/"license", but "practise" (the verb) becomes "practice".  And, weirdly to my eyes, the extra "l" in some words is dropped, making "traveller" "traveler".

Oh, I forgot.  The big one for a stamp collector.  Silent word endings are dropped, making "catalogue" "catalog" and "cheque" "check".

Now I live in Hillsboro, but once it was actually called Hillsborough!

Another thing to keep in mind.  The past tense and past participles of a few verbs end in "t" in British English, but in American English they are much more likely to end in "ed".  For instance, "learnt", "burnt", "dreamt", "spoilt" and "spelt" become "learned", "burned", "dreamed", "spoiled" and "spelled".  A friend of mine told me that she thought "learnt" sounded uneducated.  And here I was thinking that I was sounding more educated!!  Travel writer Bill Bryson emphasizes this difference in the title of his book on Australia - In a Sunburned Country.

Other words that were simplified are:

Check out this list of Canadian words compared to their American spelling.  Some of the changes may surprise you!

Words that didn't make it into the above list are:

aluminium / aluminum
enrol /enroll
jewellery /jewelry
kerb / curb
mum / mom
programme / program
tyre / tire
yoghurt / yogurt

Common misspellings or misused words

Some of these drive me nuts at times, especially using "loose" for "lose"!

American version Correct spelling/usage
it's its
your you're
definately definitely
loose lose
boarder border
could care less couldn't care less
drug dragged
effect affect

Ozzie in Oregon