The Influence of Nations on English

The Influence of Nations on English

I thought I knew the difference between American and Canadian spelling. After all, I have graduated with my baccalaureate from Seattle University and had to use American spelling in those days. The differences of neighbour and neighbor and honor, odor, favor and valor seemed obvious. I knew about sceptical and skeptical. When I read a book set in England, and the writer uses favor, I know it was written by an American, or at least for the American market.

But some words catch me. When the hotel offers me a complimentary car, I expect the car to say nice things about me. However, I find that I am wrong about that. If it is free, then it is, indeed, complimentary, but if it completes my package, it is complementary. It’s hard to get my mind around that one. I do waste minutes contemplating that.

When I’m asked on a form if I am a traveler, I wonder what happened to the missing “l.” It stayed in Canada, that’s what happened. I bemoan the lack of precision in license. In Canada, license is a verb and licence, an noun. I hold a driver’s licence, but I give you license to do what you like about your own driving. I have a defence against your complaints, but not in the US. There I have a defense, although I can be defensive about it in either language. If I want to counsel a member of the Town Council I’d better get my vowels straight. My US Spell Check does not admit to the existence of it’s and wants me to put its when I mean it is. Eats, Shoots and Leaves author Lynne Truss would be appalled.

It’s a minefield, isn’t it? And I enjoy picking my way through it. Anyone have a favorite or even favourite, example?