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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/45

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PREFERENCE IN ENGLISH SPELLING.

as a pillar-box. There no one would ask at a store for a wash-bowl and pitcher, however much he might need these useful household articles, but he would call at the shop for a jug and basin. An American in London must not say street car, but tram or road car; not engine (which is pronounced injin), but locomotive-engine; not engineer, but engine-driver. In England many ordinary household articles are known by names as different from those in our country as if the language there were altogether a foreign tongue. Small wonder, then, that a keen-witted American maid remarked, à propos of the difference between British English and American English, that London was a delightful place if you only knew the language.

Nowhere is the difference between American English and British English more marked and interesting than in the varying practise of spelling on both sides of the Atlantic. Let us note some of the chief points of variation.

Our British cousins assume an exasperating air of superiority when they mention the matter of our spelling and, as self-appointed conservators of the language, point out what they are pleased to style the offensive eccentricities of American spelling. The British journals ever and anon draw attention to our manner of writing such words as favor, honor, center, program, almanac, tire, curb, check and criticize and the like, which they spell favour, honour, centre, programme, almanack, tyre, kerb, cheque and criticise. Now, in the case of most of these words, we submit that the American spelling is nearer the historical spelling, simpler and more logical than the British method. As for the words typified by honor, our method is simpler and nearer to the ultimate etymology. These words, it hardly need be observed, are borrowed from the Latin through the French. The British maintain that for this reason the spelling ought to conform to the French fashion. But they overlook the fact that these words have not always been written in English according to the French manner of writing. Dr. Johnson, the eminent lexicographer of the eighteenth century, wrote honor beside honour, neighbor beside neighbour, harbor beside harbour and the like. Indeed, the great Cham allowed himself considerable latitude in the matter of English orthography. Moreover, the Norman-French forms of these words were written in a variety of ways, as our, eur, ur, and also or. Even on the historical ground, therefore, there is not lacking some authority for the American spelling. If the English were consistent, they would be forced by the logic of their argument to write uniformly govenour, errour, emperour, oratour, horrour and odolour as well as honour and favour. But practise shows their glaring lack of consistency, since they do not spell these words ordinarily with u. It ought not to be regarded as a reproach upon American spelling, because in our desire for simplicity and uniformity we have rejected the u in this entire class of words