Thursday, March 24, 2016

It's French. It's British.

In my French language classes, I like to understand the derivation of the words. I think it helps to reinforce in my mind how a word is constructed.

For some words, it may simply be a matter of a different spelling: acteur, automatique, descendre, photographie.

For other words, there may be a connection with a related but little used term in American English: arbre (arbor) for tree, cuisine for kitchen.

A few words in French are a straight borrow from English: le weekend.

But, not infrequently, even my trés knowledgeable professeur has no explanation for why some words or phrases are used. Her explanation - "It's French."

I recently came across a similar dilemma in British English. While proofreading a client document, I noticed they seemed inconsistent in the spelling of the word licensing (American) / licencing (UK).

The explanation they provided is that, "In British English, when used as a noun, the correct spelling is 'licence'... when you add the 'ing' to 'licence', it becomes 'licensing'."
 
That's a new one to me. Certainly looks awkward to have licence and licensing mixed on the same page. I guess "It's British."

Same goes for commas and periods outside the quotation marks.

Please don't get me started on Canadian English.

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