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From the Editor’s Desk: Canadian English – More American or more British?



Weeks have passes since Royal Wedding fever captured the world’s attention, and some of us are still remembering the bright colours of those fascinators, wondering what flavour of wedding cake the bride and groom enjoyed, and wishing we could be William and Kate’s Welsh neighbours.

Or is that, “colors,” flavor,” and “neighbor”?  It depends on whether or not your English, Canadian or American.

Most of us are all-too familiar with those red squiggly lines that appearing under words in text documents and email when we use U’s or  S’s (in words that have more than one correct spelling), and when we type words like “organize” or “labour.” What are some of the differences between “Commonweath English” and American English?  

Commonwealth English tends to stick rather closely to its European roots, maintaining its Latin and Greek suffixes. It almost always uses -our, -re, and –ise, whereas American English uses -or, -er, and -ize word-endings. But it doesn’t stop there. British English also uses definite articles with several institutional nouns that its American counterpart doesn’t:  “A sick patient is in hospital” (UK) versus “…in the hospital” (USA).

And although the nuances between British and American English don’t stop at the written word, they do become less about the language, more about the region and are often quite humourous. For example, in Britain, a mechanic might look under your bonnet to ensure all’s well, but in North America, a mechanic usually bends over the hood of your car to check things out.

 A Canadian is most likely to call their winter head-gear a “toque” while their American neighbours are more inclined to call it a “knit or wool hat.” Same with pop/soda and chocolate bar/candy bar: It all depends on where you live.

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  • http://twitter.com/bobseonet Bob Urbanowski

    Toque eh? Would have been interested to read about more “Canadian English” words – being British I’m very familiar with our own spellings but also those in the US. Not so for Canada.

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