The licence to practise theatre is in the grey-coloured catalogue.

Like many Canadians, I have a subdued relationship with patriotism; the sole maple leaf in the house is sewn into a Team Canada hockey jersey that is sometimes worn on July 1st or during rousing Olympic finals.

Otherwise, the only time I become gripped with nationalistic fervour is while spelling. I bridle at being forced to drop the "u" from colour when setting HTML attributes. I insist on customizing the College's Yankee-made execrable system so that it prints cheques rather than checks. And, although not strictly a matter of spelling, I loudly correct students who mispronounce the last letter of the alphabet.

Unfortunately, the correct Canadian form is not always a matter of record. National newspapers and even the Corp. disagree. As near as I can figure, Grade 4 teachers have been responsible for the rules. Mrs. Metcalfe taught me that the geometric middle is spelled "center" whereas institutions swap the last two letters: "Our seats are front-row center in the Arts Centre." There are at least twenty-five baby-busters spread across the country with this dictate embedded in their cortex, but I've yet to meet anyone else even remotely aware of it.

My most recent struggle -- one that comes up often at the College -- was with the words enrol/enroll and enrolment/enrollment. Once again, against the advice of my UK English spell-checker, I picked one from column A and the other from column B: "Once I enrol, what will be the total enrollment?" Unlike the center/re imbroglio, I have some faint vindication for this choice:

"This brings us to a quirk of Canadian spelling, in that we have our own way of doubling letters before adding suffixes. If a word ends in a single vowel followed by a single consonant, that consonant is usually doubled for most suffixes."

Cornerstone's Canadian English Page

But Cornerstone's also reports that 90% of us prefer enroll to begin with.

Like every other custom, Canadian spelling lies in that grey area between the American and the British. I guess we're lucky in being able to pick and choose our vocabulary and spelling, selecting predominantly from the UK variants without veering into old-country gibberish: "I spent a bloody fortnight in gaol for nicking the spare tyre from the boot of that estate wagon."

Archived Comments

  1. Meandering Michael on 20080420.Sunday:
    I learned the center/centre thing too, so you can probably add another thirty to your list of baby-busters.
  2. Dave on 20080420.Sunday:
    And here I was beginning to think I had hallucinated that rule, if not all of Grade 4. I am pretty sure that Grade 10 was a complete fantasy though.
  3. Dar on 20080422.Tuesday:
    I was knackered after reading that post.
  4. Dave on 20080423.Wednesday:
    Speaking of anglophilisms, I've somehow taken to pronouncing "controversy" the way the Brits do: "con-TROV-ersy". I have to make a mental retro-translation before speaking aloud. Next up: al-yoo-MIN-ium