Thursday, July 09, 2009

In defence of defense

I thought I knew most commonly used words that we and people of the US of A spell differently. I was reading a post by Dina and I noticed she used a word defense more than once. She does not normally make spelling errors or typos, unlike me, so I immediately thought, have I been spelling defence wrongly? Hah, my American spell checker just indicated I have.

But no, my spelling is not that bad. I know how to spell defence. Grrr, stop doing that spell checker. I refuse to add a word to you that is not a name.

I could do some online research but this time I thought it was best to pull out the Oxford. There is is, defence. I turned to defense and it referred me back to defence. Defense is listed under defence and marked with a asterisk. It is so long since I have picked up the dictionary, I forget what an asterisk means, but I would assume it would along the lines of 'alternative spelling' and/or 'American usage'.

So there you go. Now has anyone got a Webster and can check it? No online research please. I want the original. What does Australia's Macquarie say I wonder? Am I the last person to know that Americans spell defence as defense?


  1. Loverboy1:33 pm

    I've known about that for years. I think it's uniform, eg, offence: offense. What I can't get used to is their spelling of traveller with one L.
    Americans democratised (iZe)the language early on, writing it the way it sounds. They use Z a lot in place of S.
    New York slang especially has put a lot of vitality into English; the contribution overall is enormously valuable, and I'm totally enthralled by the Southern dialect.

  2. Yes, Andrew - on this one I think that you are the last to know.

    If you watched more American movies and television you would have been in no doubt.

  3. Loverboy2:31 pm

    Loverboy never watches TV, hasn't been to the movies in twenty years. Loverboy reads. And thrashes cars...

    Amer: trunk, hood, fender.

    Brit: boot, bonnet, mudguard.

    Aus: "Anchors!- hit the fucken anchors!!!"

    ha ha ha.


  4. The housemate and I ponder such things often, and as such constructed the perfect 'thrown off the scent' phrase to feed to a yank: "Chuck ya pushie in the back of me ute" which they'll never work out means 'load your bicycle into the cargo bed of my pick-up truck.'

    And we call the Americans lazy? Ha!

    Of course the spelling thing is entirely different. I'm a snob so I'll admit, the use of Z instead of S and S instead of C and the dropping of U irks the snot out of me.

  5. Anonymous5:08 pm

    As an EFL teacher, I can confirm that both forms of the spelling are accepted internationally. 'Defense' is mostly used in North American versions of English and 'defence' in the other versions. It's generally acknowledged that spelling in English is notoriously difficult and there have been calls to simplify it for years. It is confusing, yes, and not just for non-native learners but I kind of like the complexities. Does that make me weird? Be careful how you answer that, Andrew! :) Vik.

  6. Andew, I would be the last if it were not for my friend Frances..remember my best friend who passed on due to brain tumor? She was an American, an English teacher at that. We spent many a time discussing language. I always told her that English is such a difficult language to learn, the spelling differences and pronunciation of words with silent letters in them..but, she negated it. And so we treasured each other's thoughts on the matter..and went on our merry ways...sticking to our guns, LOL.
    colour= color= colour..yeah, whatever, LOL.

  7. The only reason I make so little spelling mistakes is Firefox FREQUENTLY corrects me.

    IF you guys say what I write'd be appalled.

    I'm not sure if you remember this, but I was totally messed up with the American-Australian spelling thing. Unlike you who are cultured and intelligent, I was completely ignorant of it. Whenever I copied and pasted quotes from Australian sources, my Firefox spelling helper would pick out all these mistakes. I was so dumb. I thought Australian newspapers and magazines just had really bad proofreaders.

    It took me awhile to catch on. I'm embarrassed to admit that.

  8. I already see a mistake.

    "If you guys say what I write."

    I meant to say SAW what I write.

    That's kind of an ironic place to have a mistake.

  9. Duh LB, I never noticed offense either. The single 'ls' in words I am used to.

    Victor. How very dare you. I watched an American tv show two weeks ago while I was in Sydney. Brothers Sisters it was called. R wanted to watch it.

    LB, American for glove box?

    Love the phrase you used Mutant. If you'd care to chuck your pushie at me sometime? I don't drop the u either and I try to keep to our s and not use z, but sometimes that is reversed. We use z and they use s.

    Ha Vik, all very well for calls to simplify it, it just gets more complicated when we are under American influence. Fortunately I like weird.

    Yeah, I do remember Cazzie. I didn't know she was American. Language discussions are always fun and interesting.

    I read that sentence with say in it three times Dina and it did not make sense. I moved on. As for the rest, AMERICAN CULTURAL IMPERIALISM! Btw, while we once had proof readers, I think they have all been given a retrenchment package and have not been replaced.

  10. Loverboy11:55 pm

    I agree with you Andrew, I don't want Americianisms taking over. I once heard a fool ordering pizza "to go" -a case of too much TV. And I get furious hearing Aussies call each other "guys".

    I'll never drop the U from words like colour, and am faithful to the Oxford all the time, nevertheless there's American slang terms I can't help liking.
    Meanwhile a mate (pal) of mine has six big American cars, including two Lincoln Continentals. They're Left Hand Drive, and I was astonished when he told me it's legal now to take them on Australian roads, I even wanted to argue about it. Far as I knew you still had to have a sign at the rear warning other drivers.
    But anyway, what I want is a 1961 Chev Corvette, left or right hand drive, doesn't matter. OH Momma -they don't make 'em like dat anymore!

  11. Loverboy12:15 am

    And yes, I've put an extra i in 'Americanisms" (but only for emphasis, ha ha).

  12. Hey, if it makes you guys feel any better...

    To make up for American Cultural Imperialism...Tim and I are trying to bring Australian culture here.

    Tim always says "No worries". Although that's not a big deal because it has caught on here anyway. A lot of people say it. But he's gotten MORE people to say it.

    I often say "Good on ya". I'm not sure if it has caught on yet. I'm not exactly a trendsetter.

  13. Loverboy12:43 am

    Dina, having seen your photo, you can do no wrong!

  14. Loverboy12:46 am

    And if you can find some Australian culture let's know about it.

  15. Loverboy,

    Thanks : )

    In all honesty, that photo is a fluke. I mean it really IS me...not photo shopped or anything.

    But I usually don't end up looking like that in pictures. If I looked like that all the time...well, that would be pretty nice.

    Usually I look a bit scary. But INSIDE I'm kind of lovable.

  16. I have yet to forgive the ALP for adopting "Labor" in place of "Labour" and being told by an American blogger that it was my spelling that was wrong all the time was just a tad rich.

  17. Fighting a battle lost LB. Maintain your standards but don't worry about what everyone else does.

    Dina, perhaps you could teach Tim 'No wuckin' furries'.

    LB, nice to comment positively on someone's overall appearance.

    It happened a long time ago Jayne. I never understood why really and I don't like it either. It is bad form to criticise other's spelling...unless they have a go first. Maybe place names are an exception or if someone continually makes the same mistake but even so, private is best.

  18. Loverboy.12:57 pm

    Thanks Andrew, there's two reasons for everything.

  19. You certainly did! I expected a cross between a Scottish and American accent.

  20. Ah no, formative years, Blackburn South

  21. Loverboy2:38 pm

    Some of these boffins are fanatical, and I don't know if it's true, but someone wrote about Webster's wife catching him in a clinch with the maid:

    Websters wife: "Noah! I'm astonished!"

    Webster: "No, my dear, I'm astonished, you're surprised."

  22. Yep Ian. You were young and never learnt how to roll your rrrs.

    I like it LB.

  23. Andrew,

    I agree that it's bad form to pick on someone's spelling. Now I've had people politely point out something I've said...questioning it. I don't mind that at all.

    What gets me is when people avoid the issue at hand by ridiculing someone's spelling or grammar. Now if there's a MULTITUDE of mistakes, it's hard not to see someone as being ignorant and/or uneducated. Still it's probably best to ignore it and stick to the issue. (My grandmother had atrocious spelling and grammar, but she still had beautiful and intelligent things to say). Anyway, what annoys me is when people are debating online and someone goes nuts over a single typo or simple grammar/spelling mistake.

  24. Yep Dina. Some people did not get a great education. I have seen where criticism of someone's spelling or grammar have stopped them writing and I think that is appalling. Most people do their best.