What Hath America Wrought, O Language?

I agree in principle, but Americans love their fancified French too. Every hair salon in America is named “Debut” or “Panache.” We eagerly adopted all the French military terminology (“colonel,” “platoon”) even if we didn’t fall head-over-heels for the pronunciation (I will never pronounce lieutenant as “left-tenant”). Anytime we want to sauce things up (as in “excrudesences”), we reach for the French dictionary.

Thus, my theory is that’s there’s a small and mostly mute minority of Americans who would support going back to British spellings, if only to inject more class into our culture. (Think the Crane brothers in Frasier.)

Side-story: There’s a French restaurant in Sagamiono, Japan called “Canard.” My first thought was that their stuffy waiters would lie to you at the table:

“Oh, oui, the truffles are most excellent today. By the way, you are beautiful. Don’t change a thing.”


But without it, how would you ever use the Z in Scrabble?? There’s a reason it’s worth just as many points as Q, which shows up at the start of a bunch of little words!

Historically, this one stems from trying to be pretentious and imitate Greek (-ize comes from Ancient Greek -ιζω, with a zeta in the middle), while the Brits tried to be pretentious and imitate French (which adapted Ancient Greek Z as S).

Because it comes from Greek πρόγραμμα (programma), with an A at the end, and final A’s generally turned into E’s in French.

Of course, if we cared what the French thought about this, we would also say “diagramme” from διάγραμμα, so…

Oh, I do that with theater (the place where you watch a show) versus theatre (the art of acting and stagecraft). It’s very cool how these random little orthographic variations can end up actually carrying weight!


I second this recommendation! It’s a very detailed look at the evolution of the language, from Proto-Indo-European on. It started like 10 years ago and has just reached the Elizabethan era.


Jim, Colonel originates from Spain, ca. XVth century, the tercio originally divided in columnas (columns, the direct derivation is clearer in romance languages: .it colonna/colonnello, .fr colonne/colonel, less evident in .es, columna/coronel) the banderas (battalion in Spain) coming later.

Best regards from Italy,
dott. Piergiorgio.


^ Mike when he promises he’s not actually as nice as he seems, he’s totallyyyyyyyyy a bad-boy.


Folk is already a plural word.


Finally, someone who gets it!

I mean yes, but shh, we’re bagging on the Brits now!

Cra(g)ne, you say?

Eh, sorta – I think this is another difference in British vs. American usage, where for us “folk” is either an adjective or denoting a people, and “folks” is multiple individuals (or multiple peoples). I dunno whether you can plausibly be descriptivist as to usage and a stickler as to spelling but that’s mostly where I personally come down…


What does centre mean anyway? Is that like a guard at a castel?

BTW, I’m from Oceanway. Back in the 60s, it was infamous.

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That’s how I used to use it as well, although that’s not a commonly acknowledged usage. In my circles it was how you could tell the real theatre kids from the posers!

But yeah, I tend to use “theater” meaning a venue and “theatre” as the art and craft.

I’ll take this opportunity to acknowledge that until my mid-30s I used to differentiate spelling between pronounced versions of separate as a verb “to take things apart” and seperate as an adjective “things that already exist apart from each other” until I learned that “seperate” is not an actual word. It took me so long to learn not to type that middle E… :exploding_head:

Centre is most commonly the British spelling of “center”. Or in 'Murica, when there’s a strip-mall they want to add some property value to they spell it that way on the signs: Backwater Centre


“Sherry, Niles?”


Where are you gettin your hair cut? I just go to good ol great clips or a lil place I call Moi Bathe Room!


Haire Centre [+color-changing LED lights]


‘Folk’ is a collective noun while ‘folks’ is, as you say, a plurality of people. So “Some folk [collective noun] are [conjugates in the singular] going down to the old folks’ [multiple older people, uses the plural possessive] home.”

Or something like that. Merriam-Webster just say both ‘folk’ and ‘folks’ can be used as the plural :slight_smile:

Also, I third the distinction in American English between theater (building) and theatre (craft/art form). I taught theatre for many years at the undergrad level, and thus spent a lot of time in theaters :wink: