Friday, 11 February 2011

Okay, now I'm vitriolic!

There is much joshing from both sides of the Atlantic about differences between UK and US English. In some cases it's down to simple usage - terms, for example, that never made the voyage across with the early settlers. I was surprised a while ago when I refered to a coconut shy in a US book and editor hadn't a clue what I was talking about. But in other cases it was down to a specific urge on the part of America to be different. And one example of this is in rationalized spellings. Although the original proposals were watered down, the US consciously took some of the less obvious spellings in English and made them 'easier'.

The watering down resulted in some some oddities. There is no doubt, for example, that 'colour' is an odd spelling for that word. But so, frankly, is color. They really should have gone for something like culler. However, one simplification that seems particularly strange from the UK side is the random way that some 'ph' spellings were changed to 'f' and some weren't. Those 'f' spellings really offend the UK eye, so I was mildly horrified to discover that the official spelling of sulphuric acid is now sulfuric acid. (Interestingly Microsoft isn't aware of this - the spell checker kept telling me I'd got it wrong.) You might say I was so irritated I become positively vitriolic.

You can find out for sure by listening to my Royal Society of Chemistry podcast on, groan, sulfuric acid. Click here to have a listen.

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