Blog: Dave LeggettAustralian spelling

Dave Leggett | 7 August 2003

Just had a couple of emails from Australians responding to a recent blog saying that US spellings are not uncommon Down Under. Russ Maddock in Brisbane says: "I was a bit horrified to read that we Australians don't spell colour with a "u". Any of my fellow Australians who do this either weren't paying attention in school, or grew up watching Sesame Street!" That had me wondering if too many Roberts brain cells have now called it a day. Did I not see 'colour' spelled 'color' in Wheels and Modern Motor magazines back in those halcyon, acne-ridden, teenage car nut days? Perhaps I did.

Motoring writer Peter McKay said: "the different terms and spellings you highlight are interesting. News Ltd here [a major newspaper and magazine publisher] leans to some strange hybrid language - a mid Atlantic look (centre, program, color. Football finals are now....aaagh, play-offs). Fairfax tends to use English as a rough basis, but we go for "program" instead of "programme". And kmh instead of km/h. Keeps us on our toes."

Language is fascinating for the way it evolves, the way spelling and grammar change. Just try reading a document written in 'English' a few centuries ago.

In the earlier blog I mentioned Jaguar's request for "you address" and offer to provide details of "you dealer". Peter's view on that: "I appreciate you taking aim at poor grammar. I don't think we journalists are always as sqeaky clean in this department as they'd like [he's right, I mis-spelled 'educated' in the blog]. But the proliferation of web sites has generated lots of instant experts - enthusiastic amateurs. I did a copywriting stint - four days - with an advertising agency many moons ago before walking out over a matter of principle. I wanted to write a reasonable facsimile of Queen's English while my boss would respond 'but it's the way we do things'".

"Particularly annoying (and the Brits do it all the time) is the habit of linking singular and plural together. As in Jaguar ARE... Jaguar is a single entity. It would be acceptable to say "the Jaguar people are... I know it is newspaper and magazine style there, but it's wrong. Our sporting pages do it too, as in "Australia take sledging to new heights of lowness."
Graeme Roberts


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