9 February 2006


The other day I was exchanging email banter with an American friend. I guess he thought he was doing me a favour when he emailed to tell me that I had misspelled the word 'utilise' in one of my emails, and that it should be spelled 'utilize'. Naturally, I quickly fired back an email and told him that Americans spell it with a 'z' (which I pronounce zed, not zee) and that Australians, Brits, and Canadians spell it with an 's'. I'm not going to list all the words that Americans spell differently, but I just wanted to clear it up as a number of Americans read my blog and I would hate for you to think I consistently misspell words. I'm not saying I don't make mistakes because I certainly do, but as a geek who enjoys reading the dictionary, I like to think I have more than a basic grasp of spelling.

Whilst on the topic of demographics, I am extremely pleased that, like the Hoff, the good folk in Germany are inexplicably interested in the little I have to offer. Cool. Drop me a line and say gidday.


  1. Aaah. But you are forgetting that we are large and rich and in possession of great economic and military might. Therefore, our version of the English language is the standard by which the universe shall adhere.

    In a recent episode of The Simpsons, Homer is on a beach in Rio when someone refers to him as a dumb American tourist, or some such insult. Homer quickly replies, "Hey! How did you know I was American?!" Then the scene pans down to Homer's t-shirt which features a demonic eyed Uncle Sam eating the Earth as if it were a large piece of fruit positioned over the caption, "Just try and stop us!"

    There are aspects of life here that I wouldn't trade for anything, but sometimes I wonder.

  2. Forty_two - I'm sure life in your fair land is wonderful. However, I have to admit that the appropriation of the English language by America does concern me. The rest of the English speaking world use a certain spelling and then there's American spelling which is now becoming industry standard. I have to use American English when editing texts at work everyday. I know language is fluid and it evolves, I am just not sure that the changes being made are entirely beneficial.

    Wish I had a TV, I haven't seen the Simpsons for way too long. Sounds like a good one.

  3. America is a very large place and the use and spelling of the English language isn't even standard here. Regional accents and metaphors can add to the confusion. When I was in the army in the mid 1980's, I had to speak unnaturally slowly to some of my buddies. They would miss words or phrases regularly if I didn't slow down. I was never sent into combat, but I could easily imagine being under fire, somewhat excited, and calling for fire support to an artillery controller who learned to speak English in Oklahoma. Who knows where the shells are going to land?

    It's tempting to blame "industry standards" on American arrogance, but it's really just a matter of economics. We consume a huge proportion of the worlds goods and services and those who produce things are simply catering to their customers.

    And there's a bit of arrogance as well. But it's mostly Americans who are powerful, and therefore visible who tend to set the stereotype for arrogance. Power seems to do that to people everywhere.

  4. Oh yeah, before I forget.

    The land isn't all that fair, and life here can be excruciatingly painful. Our culture is still shockingly Darwinian. We don't promote the development of each individual's strengths. We simply crush those who are foolish or unlucky enough to allow their weaknesses to show. In this way, American culture is much like nature. I don't write nice things about life here in my weblog, and I ask some very disturbing questions.

  5. As an American, I do think it is a shame that most Americans are not aware of the diversity of the English language and that this diversity is no longer reflected or recognized as much as it should be.
    I would like to point out, however, that ignorance often goes both ways. I spent a year teaching English in the Austrian school system and was reminded countless times that as an American I couldn't possibly speak/write English properly or well.
    It's not only countless Americans that are narrow-minded -- a fact that lots of Europeans seem all to eager to ignore.
    On a happier note, interesting blog! Especially love the pics of the train stations.

  6. AnonymousJune 14, 2006

    This almost covers it.

    Britain and America, two nations divided by a common language
    - Oscar Wilde