On Colours of Aluminium Armour, or Why I Refuse to AmericaniSe my Spelling

I have been in America for three years now. This time has meant a lot to me. I have learnt many things, I have grown and changed in many ways.

But there is one change which I refuse to make. It isn’t quite philosophical, nor technical, conditional, or circumstantial, although it is a little bit of all of the above. It is orthographical.

I am Armenian, but I grew up in New Delhi, India. I have spoken the English language pretty much my entire life, and I have written in the English language during most of that time too. In India, we use the British way of spelling things, and of expressing ourselves in general.

So, as I said before, I have “learnt” much in America, not “learned”, although I could say that I might someday consider myself “learned” (pronounced “learn-ud”).

Red, blue and orange are colours, with a “u”, and those who live around me are my friends and neighbours, again including “u” (and you!). Knights in shining armour brandish swords perhaps made of aluminium. (They wouldn’t dare wield swords made of something as flimsy as that, unless they were trying to foil their opponents, maybe… but you see what I’m talking about.)

That subject dealing with numbers and figures? It’s maths, not “math”. A similarly-minded friend of mine quipped that it’s short for mathematics. If it were a single mathematic, then we’d talk.

The last letter of the alphabet? It’s still called “zed”, as it has been for centuries.

For centuries elsewhere, of course. Not in America. I had a professor my first year here who constantly corrected my spelling on papers. Both he and I were equally pig-headed, and so we remain. The editor of this blog has a similar field day every time with my posts, I’m sure.

In the spirit of fairness, though, I must add the various Americanisms which have been absorbed by my vocabulary too, and which I aim to keep, even if I move to Buckingham Palace tomorrow. When something strikes my fancy, for example, it is “sweet”. When something excites me, I go, “Yes!”. I shall definitely “graduate” in May, and not “pass out”, as I would have in India. Although, the exhausting way we work here at St. John’s College, it may end up being a little of both.

Editor’s Note: In appreciation of this post, I have also allowed Nareg to keep his British conventions of punctuation, even though here in America we punctuate “inside the quotation marks,” not “outside”.  I’ll return to my normal, stubborn self next time!

Useful and/or fun reads on the difference between American and British:

–> Potentially confusing and embarrassing differences

–> British to American slang translator

–> British Council: How to understand the differences video and exercise

–> Standard spelling differences

6 comments

  1. I can totally understand how you feel although personally I think being at odds with a professor over English is nothing to having your American English “corrected” by your British children. My experience is that just as important is the use of language and the slight difference in meaning of certain words such as “clever” or “sorry” and of course the racial categories are different. People with origins in India and Pakistan are called Asian and indeed British Asians are considered “black.” For example a few years ago the president of the Black Police Association was Asian. I included subtle vocabulary differences in a powerpoint for British scholars on their way to the US and received many emails saying “thank you so much!”

  2. It is great to see how well Nareg has done since I last saw him in 2006. He was a great intern when I directed the Armenian Legislative Strengthening Program. A bit stubborn perhaps…

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