After I wrote a joke on my Twitter involving the word ‘aeroplane‘, I received a response from one of my followers, politely informing me that it was in fact correctly spelled ‘airplane‘. Obviously I was very cordial in then informing them that ‘airplane‘ was the Americanised spelling of the word, and they conceded that “there is an exception if you are British.”, although frankly, that should certainly be the other way around!

Anyway, I bring this up not to have a go at someone misguidedly trying to correct my spelling, but rather at what it made me think about afterwards. I hate to admit it, especially since most of my followers are American, but there is and has always been in Britain, this ever-present stereotype that Americans are stupid; just as American television suggests that Americans hold a stereotype that British people are pompous wimps with bad teeth; it’s fine, those with an opinion that actually matter are usually smart enough to understand the fallacy in negative stereotypes.

Having said that, the more I thought about it, the more amused I was at the notion of the ‘Americanisation‘ of the English language. One could argue that it is more a question of logicality and convenience, but I find it quite funny that Americans seem to have tried to make so many words in the language a bit easier to spell, almost as if it is an admittance of America’s own stupidity. As I said before, I give no credence to the stereotype that America is a ‘stupider‘ country, but it is odd that it seems to have something of a ‘dumbed-down‘ language.

For example, as mentioned before, the somewhat confusing ‘aeroplane‘, becomes the somewhat blatant ‘airplane‘. ‘Doughnut‘ becomes ‘donut‘, ‘tonne‘ becomes ‘ton‘, ‘dialogue‘ becomes ‘dialog‘, ‘cheque‘ becomes ‘check‘ and so on. Thinking about it now though, I’m not really sure who one would consider to have made the more intelligent choice… The ‘clever folks’ who have a plethora of ludicrously difficult-to-spell words, or the ‘morons‘ who made their language easier to learn and don’t have to waste time worrying about double-L’s and elongated vowels.

Join the conversation! 23 Comments

  1. I actually had that “aeroplane” argument 2 days ago with a lecturer of mine! *sigh*
    Love the post..I found it most amusing! :P

  2. I think it stupid for you to upload this post as if it is 3/8/12. It is still 3/7/12 here in America. ;)

  3. We may be stupider than y’all but there are some masterpieces in our lexicon that should not be overlooked. LOL. OMG. WTF. We’re so totes stupid we can’t even say a whole word anymore. We’ve also done our best to reintroduce the letter Z into the society of words. I mean wordz. You’re totes welcome, other countreeezzzz! :)

  4. Two nations separated by a common language?

  5. You know I was talking about this the other day with a UK friend of mine. Though I am American, I prefer some of the British spellings. They make more sense phonetically. I didn’t realize this till trying to teach my eldest son the use of phonetics in spelling and reading, which they do not teach in-depth here. I especially like the U in words such as humour… So, I don’t know if I can say that the Americanized version is actually easier, because in many cases with learning to spell and read it seems much harder.

    • Surely humor/humour should really be spelt ‘humur’ or ‘humer’ if it’s to reflect how we actually say it…? ;-)

      So many words in English seem to break one rule or another, don’t they? It’s a wonder our tiny kiddy brains every picked up the language at all.

  6. ok, what’s with the adoptuskids advertisement? I ask because I’m adopted.

  7. What about the ‘s’ vs ‘z’? That really makes no sense (or is that senze?).

  8. Once I sat in a talk given by a British specialist, Power Points and all, and two American ladies next to me started whispering that the guy must be dyslexic, because he didn’t know how to spell. Felix, you forgot favourite vs. favorite, modelling vs. modeling, realise vs. realize… not to mention basics like aubergine vs. eggplant, courgette vs. zucchini, and the one that will never cease to confuse me, rubbish/litter vs. garbage/trash.

  9. I think Oscar Wilde nailed it:

    “America and Britain: Two Nations separated by a common language…”

    I think the problem with Americans (and I’m aware this is a generalisation) is that they ‘don’t get out much’ – they’re not particularly worldly aware (though that is changing, out of necessity) – their own country is so huge, most of them haven’t seen it, never mind got a passport and gone abroad. they’re still quite young, you see. Give them time. ;-)

    PS – With the advent of textspeak (txspk?) I do worry that great swathes of under-educated British teens will beat the Americans at their own game, in a race to see how few letters one can use and still be understood…..

    • On the point you made about Americans not being particularly worldly aware, I offer a short anecdote…

      An old friend of mine was travelling in Asia. On a train, he met an American who asked where he came from.

      “I’m from Australia, mate,” my friend replied.

      “Oh, yeah? Whereabouts in Europe IS that exactly?” asked the American.

      Hmm… I’ll leave all you ‘worldly aware’ Americans to read that and weep.

  10. ah..I see someone else got in with the Wilde quote – damn those early risers! :-)

  11. Ah, you’ve done a wonderful job articulating this touchy subject. Being Canadian I am constantly at odds with people because we are a mix of American and British spelling. I prefer the British version. It is more beautiful and can be traced back through the Romance languages.

    Loved this and laughed! Thanks!

  12. English English is prettier…

  13. Cheers!
    And to clear up any confusion that may arise later.on.. we (stereotyped as polite) Candians spell everything the Britsh way.
    With that said, have a lovely day ;)

  14. As a Brit living in Canada I beg to differ with Cakes there. Canadians officially follow the British spelling, but in reality you’ll find a confusing mish mash of both versions; in both spelling and formatting of the date. In fact, if you find something dated 9/11/10 good luck pinning it down within two years! And how frustrating to have my children marked ‘wrong’ in school for calling me ‘Mum’.

  15. Huh, quite the conundrum is it not? LOL! there is a debate that I shall not enter into :) I will honour you with my silence on that one! ha-ha, just kidding since I have MANY British and Canadian followers, I feel we are all equal not matter how we spell our words ;) Thanks for the chuckle, Terri

  16. Great post, but I think you’ll find it’s spelled “Americanization”. ;)

  17. Reblogged this on The Foley's Forum Blog and commented:
    To all you writers out there… Thought you might enjoy reading this blog on American v. British language & spelling…


Leave a Reply to terri0729 Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

About Felix O'Shea

Felix is a guy who isn't actually a writer, but calls himself one when he wants to try to impress gullible people.


Random rubbish that I can't think of a category for


, , , , ,