On Writing  

Brit vs. Yank…to the letter
DeborahAnne MacGillivray
© December 2004




The Internet has brought into being a lot of new works such as blog, website, siggy (graphics signatures), even cybersex. While is has broken down barriers, so that your best friend may live half around the world, please stop and remember the way you spell might not be the correct way for everyone. If a Yank and a Brit (and generally Canadian, too) exchange emails, or a Yank reads a Brit review or you read books write by someone from another country, don’t show your ignorance and intolerance by jumping the gun and accusing them of misspelling. Quite possibly, they could be doing the same to you!

British spellings can be different on hundreds if not thousands of words. Word ended in or for American spelling are generally spelled our in British usage. Valour, armour, honour, neighbour. Often words for Yanks ending in ize is ise in the British/Canadian usage, apologise, mesmerise, legalise, same for yze – analyse and re instead of er on the ending of words.

defence instead of defense
favourite instead of favorite
centre instead of center
metre instead of meter
theatre instead of theater
skilful instead of skillful
fulfil instead of fulfill
enrolment instead of enrollment
apologise instead of apologize
mesmerise instead of mesmerize
catalogue instead of catalog
cheque instead of check
licence instead of license
jewellery instead of jewelry
draught instead of draft
judgement instead of judgment
ageing instead of aging
pyjamas instead of pajamas
mediaeval instead of medieval
encyclopaedia instead of encyclopedia
manoeuvre instead of maneuver
accoutrements instead of accoutrements
collectables instead of collectibles
dyke instead of dike
behaviour instead of behavior
analyze instead of analyze
enquire instead of inquire
cosy instead of cozy
freshwater instead of freshwater
grey instead of grey
goal instead of jail
heydey instead of heyday
woollen instead of woolen
annexe instead of annex
aeroplane instead of airplane
Benedectine instead of Benedictine
artefacts instead of artifacts
colonnaded instead of colonnaded
hiccough instead of hiccup
tyres instead of tires
doughnuts instead of donuts

British will double l when preceded by a vowel
travelling instead of traveling
signalling instead of signaling

or ed on certain words
dreamt instead of dreamed
leapt instead of leaped
learnt instead of learned
unspoilt instead of unspoiled

then there are the just plain using different words for the same thing.
pants / knickers = underwear
trousers = pants
crisps = chips (as in potato chips)
chips = French fries
drencher = sprinkler
torch = flashlight
dustbin = trash can
flannel = washcloth
flat = apartment
tailback = traffic jam
chemist = pharmacist
windscreen = window screen
jumper = sweater
slip road = exit ramp on highway
Autumn = Fall
biscuit = cookie
scone = biscuit
motorway = highway
loose chippings = gravel
lorry = truck
pavement = sideway
boot = truck of a car
bonnet = hood of a car
roundabout = merry-go-round
holiday or hols = vacation
afters = desert
flat = apartment
spanner = wrench
soft verge = shoulder of a rode
banger = sausage
rasher= bacon
Aubergine = eggplant
de-mister = defroster in a car
diversion = detour
kip = sleep
fog lights = low beam of car lights
glove box = glove compartment
gearstick = stick shift
answerphone = answering machine
bin bag = trash bag
bin lorry = garbage truck
blower = telephone (however, my grandfather deemed this a bit naughty since he frequented the states, so we were never permitted to use that term, but used telly, which often confuse some because telly is television in Britain…lol)
telly = television
duvet= quilt or comforter (Brits generally sleep with just a duvet, instead of a quilt blanket and top sheet. The duvets have special removable covers that can be washed. There are different weights of duvet for all seasons, called togs. 2 or 3 togs are summer weights, while harsh winter ones would be 11 or more. Being a child of “both sides of the Pond”, I really like this better than the quilt, blanket and top sheet. Less blanket and sheet bunching up.)
loo = bathroom
lounge = living room
sticky plaster = Band-Aid

Then there are the differences in prepositions. In US it’s “I am in the hospital” while in Britain it’s “I am in hospital”. Mum would “tuck you up” when in US your Mom would “tuck you in”. When you call someone in the US, it’s ring someone in Britain. This one gets chuckles from Yanks because it has complete different meaning for Brits. When they go to visit they “go knock someone up”! Of course, that is common slang in US for getting someone pregnant!

The list is ENDLESS, so remember the next time you are ready to jump on someone for not spelling word the way you THINK they should be spelling, that maybe they are thinking the same thing about you!



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