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Kerb appeal
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2013/12/16
6:03pm
deaconB
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On dictionary.com, they define kerb as being British for 2 of the 18 definitions of curb

Are the kerb/curb. honor/honour, etc. pairs pretty consistent through the former Empire or do some places have their own mix of US and UK languages?  Are the two languages, in general, converging or diverging?

2013/12/16
8:05pm
Ron Draney
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If there's any place that mixes US and UK usage, it's going to be Canada.

Kerb/curb is an exception to a more general rule that when US and UK spellings differ, the British version is longer. Compare colour/color, travelled/traveled, oestrogen/estrogen, judgement/judgment, aluminium/aluminum, aeroplane/airplane, catalogue/catalog, doughnut/donut, plough/plow.

An even rarer exception that goes the other way is fulfil/fulfill.

2013/12/17
6:53am
deaconB
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I don't know that plough is particularly British.   

Faulkner's "Ploughman's Folly" was published in 1943.  His farm was located in NW Ohio, and his publisher was University of Oklahoma. 

Local farm families would drive up on Sunday afternoon to see Faulkner's pitiful farm and make jest, until rationing hit, but I never heard one thing about spelling. I suspect "plough" is just old, not british

2013/12/17
1:49pm
Bob Bridges
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Interesting examples.  It turns out that I have always preferred the British spelling of some words, in a few cases without even realizing it was British.  In order:

  • I have nothing against the "-our" suffix, but I use it only when I'm in the mood.
  • I definitely write "traveled", "canceled", "controled" and a few others like it, but it's only recently that I've become aware that these are British variations.  The reason is curious:  Back when I was in elementary school, an exceptionally poor student who everyone (including me) would have said was paying no attention, I was taught a rule about doubling the final consonant:  You double that consonant when the emphasis is on the final syllable and its vowel quality is short.  Thus "canned" is doubled (because it's emphasized and short), but "caned" (because it's a long 'a').  "Traveled" and "canceled" have one 'l', even though the 'e' is short, because the syllable is unemphasized.  "Controled" has only one 'l', even though the final syllable is emphasized, because the vowel is long.  Why did I retain that rule?  I dunno, but it turns out I retained a lot of stuff like that even though I thought I wasn't listening.  I still follow that rule today, and add extra words to my spell checker to make it happy.
  • I don't care one way or the other about 'æ'; and 'Å“'; I can use 'em or ignore 'em without pain.
  • I have always strongly preferred "judgement" to "judgment", and I never understood why.  I never knew it was a British spelling until just now.  Maybe I've read more British writing than I realized.
  • "Aluminium" isn't really a British spelling, per se; I've been given to understand that it's actually the correct name.  Back when it was first being talked about (when it was first discovered as an element, perhaps?), there was an article about it in the American press that accidentally left out the 'i', and it was never corrected; Americans have been calling it "a-LOO-min-um" ever since, but the rest of the world says "al-lyoo-MINN-ee-um".  Or anyone who doesn't has been around Americans too long, I suppose.  It's been "aluminum" here so long that very few people would claim that it's just wrong, but technically I suppose that's the case.
  • I've always written "catalogue" and "doughnut", too, without ever knowing until now that they're British.  I knew that "analog", "catalog" and such have been getting more frequent, and there's nothing wrong with them, really; I'm just used to writing "-logue".
  • "Plough"/"plow" are interchangeable, in my lexicon.  I can't even say which one I'm more likely to write, myself; probably depends on what I've been reading recently.
  • Allow me to add that "grey" still looks better to me than "gray".  I can't say why.
2013/12/17
2:33pm
RobertB
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deaconB, it seems publishers on each coast do stick with their own, though Brits are more strict.

This appears to show the cover of Plowman's Folly by University of Oklahoma Press, 1943

You will find English publishers that took liberty the other way on the very same American title.

 

My sense is Rome will never care for Barbarians but Barbarians will sometimes revert to Rome for class. 

2013/12/17
7:38pm
Ron Draney
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Bob Bridges said

"Aluminium" isn't really a British spelling, per se; I've been given to understand that it's actually the correct name.  Back when it was first being talked about (when it was first discovered as an element, perhaps?), there was an article about it in the American press that accidentally left out the 'i', and it was never corrected; Americans have been calling it "a-LOO-min-um" ever since, but the rest of the world says "al-lyoo-MINN-ee-um".  Or anyone who doesn't has been around Americans too long, I suppose.  It's been "aluminum" here so long that very few people would claim that it's just wrong, but technically I suppose that's the case.

My reasoning is that the 'i' the Brits added comes from a mistaken assumption that all Latin names for chemical elements end in "-ium". I like to ask if they also insist on platinium and molybdenium. (And those classical names, ferrium, plumbium, cuprium, aurium, etc.)

But it does lead to a nice brain-teaser: what three elements are spelled differently in America and Britain. One we already have. Of the other two, I'll hint that one is an alkali metal and the other is a non-metallic solid.

2013/12/17
9:56pm
Dick
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I know about sulfur/sulphur.  But the "ph" version is not widely used, even in the U.S.  In fact, I just noticed that when I wrote "sulphur" my American spell check wanted to change it.

2013/12/17
11:42pm
Bob Bridges
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Ron Draney said: My reasoning is that the 'i' the Brits added comes from a mistaken assumption that all Latin names for chemical elements end in "-ium"…..

No, no, the discoverer of a new element gets to pick the name.  If he picked "aluminium", then that is indeed its name no matter what mistaken beliefs he harbored about Latin endings.  Hold on, let me look it up…Wikipedia says

"The spelling 'aluminium' is the international standard in the sciences according to the IUPAC recommendations. Humphry Davy, the element's discoverer, first proposed the name 'alumium', and then later 'aluminum'. The name aluminium was finally adopted to conform with the -ium ending of metallic elements. Canada uses 'aluminum' and Australia and New Zealand 'aluminium', according to their respective dictionaries."

2013/12/18
11:42am
New River, AZ, USA
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Ron Draney said: But it does lead to a nice brain-teaser: what three elements are spelled differently in America and Britain. One we already have. Of the other two, I'll hint that one is an alkali metal and the other is a non-metallic solid.

I'm pretty sure Dick got the "nonmetallic solid" correct as sulfur/sulphur (the latter of which my spell-check flags). So I'm guessing the "alkali metal" would probably be "cesium/caesium" (though I rarely see the latter form, which spell-check also flags).

Was watching the Science Channel the other night, and noticed the word "methane" was being pronounced as "MEE-thane" which I hadn't heard before. It was a British documentary, so I checked online and sure enough, that's the "correct UK" pronunciation.

Now that seems to break the English pronunciation rule about vowels followed by more than one consonant, but check any online source and you'll find that they always append the caveat "But there are exceptions to this rule." Still, "MEE-thane" just sounds plain wrong to my American English ears. And the discoverer of methane (Alessandro Volta) was Italian and did most of his scientific work there. So how the heck did methane get "corrupted" by the UK? My guess is that the Royal Society in the UK, which basically dictated the development of science in that era, decided that's how they liked it to sound. Written in Volta's original Italian, it would be spelled "metano" but if he published in Latin (common at that time) it would have been spelled "methane."

2013/12/18
1:29pm
Bob Bridges
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Dunno exactly how it applies in this case, but I've observed that although Americans prefer to retain the original pronunciation of a word borrowed from a foreign language, the Brits generally pronounce it using English-style phonetic interpretation.  Thus we drive "JAG-wahrz", but the Brits drive "JAG-yoo-ahrz".  There are other examples; maybe this is one.

I know, I know, if we really cared about the "original pronunciation" we would drive "HAHG-wahrz".  So maybe I should say that Americans at least try a little harder.

(And I can't tell you how horribly I winced when I first heard a BBC reporter inform me that he was speaking from "mun-AGG-you-ah, nick-er-AGG-yoo-ah".)

By the way, if you care about such things, in IPA-for-ASCII the above attempts at pronunciation are, respectively, /'dZ&gwarz/, /'dZ&gjuarz/, /'hagwarz/, /m@n'&gju@/ and /nIk@r'&gjua/.  More exact, but not as well known.

2013/12/18
1:43pm
deaconB
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If the discoverer gets to name it , a fifth of the atmosphere is dephilogistated air.  Let us not insult Mr. Priestly!

2013/12/18
1:48pm
Bob Bridges
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Your post led me to look up "phlogiston", which I've seen in sci-fi novels but never thought to learn before.  But now that I have, isn't that backward?  Seems to me that four fifths of Earth's atmosphere must be dephilogistated.

2013/12/18
2:00pm
deaconB
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Philogiston suppresses chemical reactions such as fire.  Priestley's paper announced that he had managed to remove philogiston from air.

2013/12/18
2:10pm
Bob Bridges
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Ah, I see what happened.  I looked it up ("a hypothetical substance once believed to be present in all combustible materials and to be released during burning") and thought it referred to oxygen.  Just the opposite, mostly.

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