UK versus US English spellings

There are huge differences between US and UK English that many people are unaware of. Perhaps through the experience of using computer spellcheckers that favour US spellings – the default setting of machines using a Windows operating system and Office software – many writers and readers think that this mainly concerns spelling patterns. For instance consider the following general examples, of which these are just a few of many:

UK spelling
colour, favour, harbour, honour, mould, rigour
fulfil, instil, skilful, wilful
jeweller, traveller
organise, recognise, symbolise
centre, fibre, spectre
US spelling
color, favor, harbor, honor, mold, rigor
fulfill, instill, skillful, willful
jeweler, traveler
organize, recognize, symbolize
center, fiber, specter
Comment
-our change to -or spellings
single ‘l’ is doubled
double ‘l’ made single
but both spelling styles used in the UK (especially OUP)
-re spellings become -er

Then there is a mixed, sundry collection (UK/US spellings) such as aluminium/aluminium, programme/program, sceptic/skeptic, and tyre/tire.

But also to be considered are the many words in the UK that are used in the US with a different meaning with a few examples given below:
UK word
aubergine
biscuit (sweet)
chips
courgettes
crisps
endive
green pepper
scone
toffee apple
water biscuit
sweets/chocolate
Swiss roll
plasterboard
Rawl plug
Stanley knife
caravan
car park
fun fair
pavement
rubbish
shopping centre
trolley
US equivalent
eggplant
cookie
French fries
zucchini
potato chips
chicory
bell pepper
biscuit
candy apple
soda cracker
candy
jelly roll
Sheetrock
wall anchor
utility knife
trailer
parking lot
carnival
sidewalk
trash
mall
cart

Then there are phrases that are used in the UK that you should certainly not use in the USA unless you wanted to cause offence:

·        fag (cigarette) is a derogatory term for a gay man

·        homely means unattractive (do not say this to a woman unless you want a slapped face)

·        keep your pecker up – no explanation needed here

·        rubber is often used in America for a condom

·        a tramp (homeless person) is used to describe a loose woman. A much safer word for a vagrant would be a  hobo   or bum.

These are just a few but Christopher Davies in Divided by a Common Language estimates that 4000 words in common use in Britain have a different meaning or use in the USA. For over three centuries many Europeans have settled in the USA: Danish, Dutch, English, French, German, Irish, Italian and Swedish to name just a few. In fact in some parts French or German were once widely spoken. It is therefore not surprising that American English has become such a melting pot of languages.