Americanese

Ever since I have had a computer, it keeps telling me that I am spelling things incorrectly. Now I know that this is not the case, as I was taught well at school, and took pride in being able to spell almost anything. So, why does it persist in the dreaded red underlining? The answer lies in the origins of Microsoft, Google, and most other software companies that pioneered the expansion of the World Wide Web. They are American. They spell English incorrectly, in the American way. Those of you with a literary bent, may recall the quote of Oscar Wilde. Something along the lines of ‘Identical to the English in every respect, except of course language’. Oscar was thinking along the right lines, but he didn’t have to deal with Microsoft. In Trafalgar Square, in London, I was once approached by a tourist clutching a map. He walked towards me, smiling, and asked, “Excuse me sir, do you speak American?” I naturally replied, “No, but I do speak English”, and gave him directions. Sadly, the irony was lost on him.

The Americans have given us many useful words over the years. These include; ‘Jitterbug’ , ‘Junkie’, and a few others that did not previously feature in the Oxford English Dictionary. There are also iconic phrases, notably ‘Rock and Roll’, that have become common in everyday speech. If something did not exist before, it becomes arguable if it has a ‘correct spelling’, or not. However, the majority of the language arrived with the original settlers, so should not have been so blatantly tampered with. Try typing ‘Labour’ or ‘Harbour’ into anything. (I just have, of course, and both words are underlined in red). The spell check option will offer ‘Labor’ and ‘Harbor’ as the correct spelling. (These are not underlined as I type). Realise becomes ‘Realize’, and so on. The list would be too extensive to repeat here. This is not so much of a problem when speaking. To be honest, I don’t really care if Americans prefer to call a pavement a sidewalk, or refer to a lift as an elevator, or the underground railway as a subway. But somehow, this tampering with the written word really goes against the grain.

In the 21st Century, America has a more ethnically diverse population than ever before. Spanish is now the second language in the country, spoken by well over 50 million people, or roughly one in five of the total population. So, can anyone tell me, do they change the spellings of Spanish too? Has ‘Manana’ become ‘Manya’? I would guess that it has not. Yet the corruption of English continues, at a rapid pace, fuelled ( just the one L in America, by the way) by Pop Music Culture, and mobile phone (cell) text messages.
Night will never be ‘Nite’, and Worcester is pronounced ‘Wuss-ter’, not ‘Wore – cess-ter’. The letter Z is pronounced ‘zed’ , not ‘zee’. It just sounds so wrong, can’t they see it (or hear it) ?

There can only be one natural conclusion. There has to be a new language invented. It must be recognised (no Z) by the United Nations, and have its own dictionary. Schools can spring up, teaching it to outsiders, and English may just survive another few hundred years.
That language will be called Americanese.

16 thoughts on “Americanese

  1. Pete, my first encounter with the spelling problem was when I was 9 or 10 and my spelling test for that week came back with one of the 20 words marked as incorrect. Well, that was ridiculous, as I never misspelled any words! Under the influence of my English grandmother and the English literature I had been reading since age 4, I had spelled “honor” as “honour.” The teacher agreed to accept it as correct “just this once” but told me to use American spellings going forward.

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  2. Not Americanese. The rest of the inhabitants would get upset. I met quite a few Mexican students at Sussex and they got quite upset by people’s insistence that the US was North-America. And what about Canada and them? They do have a point… (Mind you, why America is called America is a whole other thing but…) As part of my American Literature degree at Sussex I did a year in the States, (Mount Holyoke, in Massachusetts) and I kept using UK spelling. I was very amused by the fact that they kept correcting my essays but hey, I didn’t mind, I kept going. (Funnily enough there I was English. Now….)

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  3. Having lived in Thailand for ten years I meet a lot of folks from England and GB, so it’s kind of funny how you speak of English English as one language. And I’m not being unkind, but I’ve spoken to guys from the Manchester area and need an interpreter. It would be nice if we Americans could spell, but then we wouldn’t be American. Great post!

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    1. It wasn’t meant to be as serious as it reads Dan. However, written English will always be one language to me, written and spelt as it should be, in English. Regional accents are another thing entirely. Some people from certain parts of Scotland, and some rural areas in the UK, are so hard to understand, there are subtitles shown if they are interviewed on TV. The post was more about the encroachment of the American spellings and phrases due to the computer age. Glad you enjoyed it.
      You might like this, given what you mentioned in the comments. https://beetleypete.wordpress.com/2012/12/01/regional-accents/

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      1. Believe me, I enjoyed this post of yours and my reply was also something not to be taken seriously. The Brits I’ve met abroad are some of the best people I know and it’s great fun to interact with them, and sometimes guess t what they are saying. They also –non-delicately– explained the difference between an Englishman and a British person was. It was all in good fun.

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        1. England/Britain is a very parochial place Dan. Even in London, we would hold fiercely to the area we came from. Whether north or south of the river, or east or west of the centre, it was very important.

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  4. “A rose by any other name…..” Mankind has always played with language, and so it has undergone amelioration and pejoration and various spellings throughout time. As much of a strict grammarian as I am with my students,I still believe in “Hurrah for individual differences” in The English and American languages. I just received one of those squiggly red underliners (another one) that can drive one to several more pints.

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  5. Grate boast I’m putty shore that’s bell Czech wont half a pro blame with mine. .
    Know read lions hear! Butt,euro write, peat. A merry can ease shod bee classy fried as anew long wage. Eye ugh re in tire lea.. All sew, eyed owned like tech sting, ether.. .

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  6. The problem is with vocabulary, as well as spelling. E.g. clothing. I’ve never known what sneakers or slacks were. In Canada (no difference) teachers would say, ‘When we met last day, I told you…’ as we might say ‘last week’ or ‘last night’. There was also a difference in the formality rating of shared words: students would say ‘also’ where we would say ‘as well’. Etc etc.

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