An international existence can be messy. I’m Canadian, but at work American English is the language of our documentation. However, I work for a German company so there are European standards everywhere in our systems. On this blog I’ll mix things up depending on my mood, but the rest of the time, things can get oh so very confusing.
Canada is officially metric, but if you go to the grocery store, the fresh produce is often labeled in pounds, and when you go to the cashier and the machine might calculate the kilogram price, despite the label. Ask a Canadian their height, and they’ll likely give you feet and inches (few people know their height in centimeters) but ask for distance, and you’ll get an answer in kilometers not miles.
When it comes to writing, there are differences in spelling. Commonly, you see the -our words, like colour (Canada) vs color (US). There are also the -re words, for example theatre (CANADA) vs theater (US). Let’s not forget the -s instead of -z words, for example realise (Canada) vs realize (US) – Thanks Maimoona for reminding me about this last one!
There are also words completely different in use. Here’s a short list of examples:
|runners||sneakers / tennis shoes|
|pop||soda / pop|
|chesterfield (rarely used now)||sofa / couch|
|pencil crayons||colored pencils|
What about European standards? This drives me a little batty every time I see it:
1,543,124.00 (North America) vs. 1.543.124,00 (Europe)
The first time I had to enter my time sheet, I couldn’t figure out why the computer kept rejecting my decimal points. Now I know better, but it still feels weird to use a comma instead of a dot.
When it comes to writing fiction, I find make a choice up front between Canadian or American spellings. Not every submission market cares, though most are located in the US. I fight with my computer language settings constantly as I switch between the two by necessity, and sometimes I think its easier just to shut spell check off.
Another thing that crops up is when writing fantasy is the question of weight and measurement systems. Do I use metric, imperial, or make up some arbitrary distance measure? I have to stop my brain from going to the default, which involves the inconsistent switching between the two systems.
I’m sure there are also regional differences in common word choice. As much as they are a challenge, these kinds of things fascinate me. Can you think of any examples from where you are?