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April 9, 2009 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

Differencing in New Zeland and American’s

“Right now, three-quarters of the fastest-growing occupations require more than a high school diploma.  And yet, just over half of our citizens have that level of education.  We have one of the highest high school dropout rates of any industrialized nation.  And half of the students who begin college never finish.”

President Barack Obama – Address to Joint Session of Congress, Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

Well, Mr President, I must say, if you come to my country, I’m gonna have to make sure I have my Springfield red grammar pen handy. Technically there’s nothing wrong with this excerpt—apart from the hideous double spacing (*shudder*), which I will never ever forgive him for—but I’m going to correct it anyway just for fun, and to teach you about the differences between New Zealand English and American English.

And yes, they are different. It’s important to be aware of this and to fight the infidel oppressors of our New Zealand English. Microsoft Word, aka Satan Word, is constantly trying to impose American English on us all by telling us that we misspelled ‘bastardise’ because it can’t be arsed checking what country it’s in—just waltzes on in and acts like it owns the place.

The differences are all in the spelling. American English bastardizes the English language with their favored spelling alternatives, whereas New Zealand English, which mainly follows the rules of British English, bastardises in a more gentler fashion favoured by the eyes. In Barack’s excerpt—if he were a Kiwi—he should have written “industrialised” with ‘s’ instead of ‘z’. And he shouldn’t have done all that double spacing—it’s so archaic! He should know better, really.

Cheers for the example, Baz. Like the word industrialise, any words that can end with the suffix -ise/-ize should be written in the -ise form in New Zealand English. Such words include colonise, industrialise, bastardise, capitalise, valmorphanise, caramelise, and the word I just made up, lundyise. This is also valid for the relevant forms of these verbs—i.e., bastardises (third person singular), bastardised (past participle), and bastardising (present participle).

The other major difference is the -our/-or difference. The superfluous u was rejected in American English spelling by Noah Webster, of Webster dictionary fame. He also proposed many other reforms to American English, such as metre into meter, but not all were officially recognised. So be sure you spell words such as odour, colour, favour, flavour, glamour, saviour, endeavour and fervour with the u.

These two differences are the main ones you should be aware of. There are various other vagaries out there, however. When used as a noun, a licence is spelled with ‘c‘ in British English, but spelled license in American English. But when used as a verb (to license) it is spelled with ‘s’. This applies to all of the forms derived from the verb, i.e., licensed (past participle/adjective), licensing (present participle). Defence is also spelled with ‘c’, but the verb form is different (to defend).

Here are some other words I found that differ between American and British English:

British English
American English
analyse analyze
enrol enroll
manoeuvre maneuver
aeroplane airplane
moustache mustache
mum mom
eyrie aerie
arse ass
pernickety persnickety

Questions about grammar? Email me at

Approved YouTubing

Glenn Beck presents the Obama National Anthem. (Барак Обама, наш спаситель)
Armstrong & Miller – WWII RAF Sketch. (That’s like massively disrespecting of your trousers)

Disapproved YouTubing

How is babby formed (how girl get pragnent)
The real speech of George W Bush. (We must offer every child in America three nuclear missiles)


About the Author ()

Mikey learned everything he knows about English Grammar in an MSN chat room when he was 13. Believing that people don't say "LOL" enough in everyday conversation, he has made it his mission to teach the world about grammerz one person at a time.

Comments (37)

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  1. Allan says:

    First, Michael, u ar writing about differences in spelling, not differences in the language. Elevator/lift, cookies/biscuits, I don’t have/I haven’t got are examples of the differences in the language – words and their usage.

    Next: the -ize ending is not just an Americanism. From memory, i think the first reference to this suffix in the OED predates the American Revolution. It is also the ‘style’ of the Oxford and Cambridge University Presses and many other British publishers, and until1990, The Times of London. Here in New Zealand, both the now defunct Auckland Star and the Southland Times used it, the ST changing only in recent years.

    As for the -or suffix, it’s Latin, and many of our newspapers used it in their early days. The last one to drop it was Truth, in my lifetime.

    Please don’t confuse spelling, used in recording the language, with the language itself.


  2. Liam Nub says:

    hey allan how do you say “allan is fucking shit” in american

  3. Mikey says:

    Alan, did you even read it? I quote:
    “The differences are all in the spelling.”
    Second of all, I never said that the -ize suffix is just an Americanism, all I’m pointing out here is that it should be written as -ise using New Zealand English spelling.
    I spent the last four years of my life studying language. In case you hadn’t realised, spelling is a part of language, just as pronunciation is.

  4. Liam Nub says:

    allan is dumb

  5. Allan says:

    Liam: Surely that should hav been “dum”!
    Michael: I grant u mentioned spellng, but the thrust of your article is that spelling is the language, and that by using “American spellings” we ar somehow changing the language.
    As i pointed out, the language is its words and how they ar used. The language is not its spellings or its pronunciations. They ar expressions of it.
    As they say, language evolves – naturally. To a certain extent spelling also evolves, but it is basicly a human-made convention. As such it can be and is changed without necessarily changing the language, as u showed in your two spellings of “bastardizes/bastardises”. Both expressed the same meaning, as far as i could tell. If u’d used txtspell, they would still hav ment the same..
    So why do we get uptite about retaining spelling – “correct” or mor correctly, caotic spelling – when it is a contributing factor to our unacceptable illiteracy rates, as shown by studies comparing languages with sensible, logical spelling. .

  6. Mr Magoo says:

    Time to find a hobby… (that isn’t this)

  7. Mikey says:

    Of course language evolves, and I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. The reason we have written grammar and spelling—which you seem to think so unimportant—is to maintain a consistency over the language that everyone can adhere to, and therefore so that everyone can understand it. If we reduce a language to text speak, then written words lose much of their meaning (for instance, homophones), which in turn would eventually have a very adverse effect on the language through its literature, and even its global context.

    If Shakespeare wrote in text speak, would he be as highly renowned as he is today? Shakespearean language and such has an elegancy which I firmly believe cannot be achieved through something as simplified and, let’s face it—inferior—as text speak. I invite you to prove me wrong.

    I do not mean to say that by using American spellings we are changing the language—I am simply stating the differences in spellings so that students at this university are aware of these differences (and the English language in a wider context) and are free to make an informed—albeit biased—decision on the matter, rather than just running around in the dark, as many people do.

    I am, however, intrigued by these studies of which you speak. Youths have trouble with spelling regardless of whether their native language is phonetic or not.

  8. Mikey says:

    Legibility is another reason in favour of spelling. Actual studies have shown that it takes significantly longer to read a text message in text speak than it does for the same thing written with normal spellings.

  9. NJH says:

    The bastardisation I’m concerned about is the erosion of meaning you get in News Speak, however meanings change over time.

    English spelling is the product of numerous [unsystematic] simplifications, bastardisations and economies – I fail to see how it is pure. However if you do see it as pure then you’ll get paranoid or fearful about your version or usage being polluted. I am not clear what you have against double spacings – is this nor a matter of your personal aesthetics here? Are there not more important things to worry about with American culture other than their spellings?

    Guns, Obesity, Religion would be at the top of my list.

    For my self, I would welcome variant spelling, where ever they come from, if they add to the rule-orderliness of the spelling system. A complex orthography acts as a bar to literacy; the issue is not of nationalistic noses being put out of joint but literacy and peoples’ access to it. This is Obama’s point – you are not addressing it.

    Apologies for the inevitable bad spelling or double spacing.

  10. Mikey says:

    I am aware of English being a hashed together bastardisation of many other languages, it’s just that it has become a standard that I have learned, and I’m afraid of change!
    I didn’t address Obama’s point because I really only used the quote because the theme of the issue was Obama, and I wanted to show an example of an American spelling from one of his speeches. It just happened to be about education. So sorry if this is misleading. Anyway, I prefer to stay out of politics.
    The double spacing thing is just a personal vendetta. God help you if you do it…

  11. Jackson Wood says:

    NJH: It is Newspeak, not News speak.

    Speaking from an editors point of view: Double spacing—as in. Putting two spaces after a full stop. Just like in these sentences—is annoying. It is ugly, unnecessary and most of all painful to remove. To quote Wikipedia—the font of all knowledge—the double spacing “convention was brought out by the use of monospaced font on typewriters, and carried on solely by tradition. Most fonts used in word processors since the mid-1990’s have the correct spacing already adjusted, rendering the traditional double space after a full stop obsolete”

    No one is arguing that spelling and grammar are fixed for all time by the words Mikey writes or by intangible rules.

    What is being argued is that there are some basic concepts about how to use words and you might as well use them or look like a nunce (or a person using monospaced typewriter).

    A lot of what is acceptable comes from publications like Salient, The Listener and government Ministries. All of whom have style guides. Hence why we don’t use the parenthetical structure like this – with space hyphen space – we always use this—main gist em-dash statement em-dash main gist—because it looks sexy. The Ministry of Economic Development has a style guide over 100 pages long that goes into minute detail about the use of language, grammar and punctuation. For good or bad this works and we evolve.

    [EDIT: WordPress is so advanced that it won’t even display double spacing. Take that double spacers.]

  12. Electrum Stardust says:

    ‘ As if this weren’t enough, as if the parallel were not yet sufficiently clear, there was this: The new man, Marinetti wrote – and this deserves my italics – would communicate by “brutally destroying the syntax of his speech. He wastes no time in building sentences. Punctuation and the right ad­jectives will mean nothing to him. He will despise subtleties and nuances of lan­guage.” All of his thinking, moreover, would be marked by a “dread of slowness, pettiness, analysis, and detailed explanations. Love of speed, abbrevi­ation, and the summary. ‘Quick, give me the whole thing in two words!’ ”

    (Jackson, Mao will be dealt with in due time.)

  13. Allan says:

    Mikey: U rote: ‘I am, however, intrigued by these studies of which you speak. Youths have trouble with spelling regardless of whether their native language is phonetic or not’.

    Apologies for delay: Easter grandparent and other family duties, u know!

    First: Youths and spelling difficulties: its not spelling per se thats the main problem; its the illiteracy that our unco-ordinated, messy spelling leads to for many.
    Second: Those studies: Heres a brief (but sorry its long!) rundown on some of the recent literacy learning studies i hav seen –

    1984: Journal of Educational Psychology, vol 76, #4, pp 557–568: Decoding and comprehension skills in Turkish and English: Effects of the regularity of grapheme–phoneme correspondence; Banu Oney and Susan R Goldman, University of California, Santa Barbara.
    The decoding and comprehension skills of Turkish and American first and third graders learning to read their respective languages were assessed. Turkish students were faster and more accurate on the decoding task than Americans at first-grade level and equally accurate but faster at third-grade level. ‘The data suggest that languages with more letter–sound correspondences lead to faster acquisition of decoding skills.’

    1991: British Journal of Psychology, #82, pp 527–537: The effect of orthography on the acquisition of literacy skills; Gwenllian Thorstad, The Tavistock Clinic, Child and Family Department, London.
    This study compared Italian and British children, showing, for example, that 7-year-old Italians were able to read words they did not know, and some 11-year-old British children could not read words they DID know [in speech]. The report concludes: ‘As a result of this learner-friendly orthography, Italian children do not need to spend so long learning the mechanisms of literacy skills as English children do, and have more time for other studies.’

    1997: Cognition 63, pp 315–334: The impact of orthographic consistency on dyslexia: A German–English comparison; Karin Landerl, Heinz Wimmer, Uta Frith (variously of University of Salzburg and MRC Cognitive Development Unit, London).
    ‘The main finding of the present cross-orthography comparison of development of dyslexia was that English children suffered from much more severe impairments in reading than the German children.’

    2000: Nature Neuroscience, vol 3, #1: A cultural effect on brain damage; E Paulesu and 15 other researchers from Italian and English educational institutions.
    The study was to see how the different orthografies of English and Italian were accessed by the brain. It found that Italians showed greater activation of the part of the brain that deals with foneme processing. In contrast the English had greater activation of the part of the brain that deals with word retrieval. Among other results: ‘Italian students were faster at both word and nonword reading, even when the nonwords were derived from English words.’

    2001: Science 291, March 16: Dyslexia: Cultural diversity and biological unity; Eraldo Paulesu and 11 others (from Italy, France, England, and Quebec).
    This study found that tho the neurological basis for dyslexia is the same across English, French, and Italian languages, the disorder manifests itself in different ways according to the regularity of the orthografy. The reading disorder is twice as prevalent among dyslexics in the United States (and France) as it is among Italian dyslexics. Again, this is seen to be because of Italian’s ‘transparent’ orthografy.

    2001: How do children learn to read? Is English more difficult than other languages? Paper presented to British Festival of Science, Glasgow, September; Professor Philip H K Seymour, University of Dundee.
    English-speaking children take up to two years more to learn reading than do children in 12 other European countries.

    2004: Understanding English Spelling, Masha Bell.
    The book contains a history of the development of English spelling and illustrates why our spelling is so difficult to master compared with other Indo-European systems.

    2005: OECD-CERI Learning Sciences and Brain Research, Learning to Read Report. 5562310.pdf
    ‘The studies so far undertaken in individual countries are building evidence for the hypothesis that shallow [simple] orthographies are a real advantage in terms of acquiring reading proficiency for both normal and dyslexic children. Countries with deep [difficult] orthographies might possibly begin to consider the political and societal feasibility of implementing orthographic reforms.’

    2006: KPNG Foundation: The long term costs of literacy difficulties, December
    The study estimates the total costs to the public purse to age 37 arising from failure to read in the primary school years at £1.73 billion to £2.05 billion a year.

    2008: Zuzana Kotercova: The cost of teaching English in primary schools, (commissioned by the Spelling Society).
    An initial survey and analysis of the amount of time (and therefore money in staff salaries) spent by teachers in teaching English spelling to English primary school pupils. The figure of £18m emerges from this final-year student research project.

  14. Mikey says:

    Yeah English is shit eh. Oh, the ironing!

  15. Gohan_Aro_01 says:

    HAH! Someone needs to get a life.

  16. NJH says:

    Interesting stuff Alan ~ thanks.

  17. Liam Nub says:

    NJH is a clownshoe and allan is a garbage man

  18. Jackson Wood says:

    A tilde (~)… are you fucking serious? People pain me.

    Mikey: Idea for Teh Grammarz—why you should only use tildes to indicate that you are leaving a word out.

  19. Liam Nub says:

    mikey write a teh grammarz about why nobody will ever read allan’s screeds of illiterate jibberish and he should sell his modem and never return to the internet ever again ahahaha

  20. Allan says:

    Mikey: No, English aint shit..
    Its spelling is.

  21. NJH says:

    Spoken English – brilliant [ish]

    English Spelling – a clownshoe, i.e. a piece of technology that acts as an obstacle to achieving an end.

  22. NJH says:

    Sorry Jackson Wood that should read:

    Spoken English: brilliant ~ish

    English Spelling: a clownshoe ~ a piece of technology that acts as an obstacle to achieving an end.

  23. Mikey says:

    That’s what I was saying, Allan. Thanks for clarifying.

  24. So, in the end, we all kinda… agree?


    Just wow, guys.


  25. owen says:

    so everyone’s arguing about grammar and we’re all just gonna ignore that Mikey threatened to kill the president?

  26. Mikey says:

    I don’t even think we disagreed in the first place, really.
    And owen – shhhh!

  27. Your Name says:

    Ahhh hello

  28. Debating grammar on the internet.

  29. Allan says:

    Mikey: We need to be clear about it.
    Spelling is not English. The language is English.,
    Spelling is just a way of representing it..
    Like potato is food, and there ar many ways of cooking and presenting it.

  30. Spud Ranger says:

    Dead horse is dead

  31. Mikey says:

    I just think of language in a broader sense, whereas the idea of language you are expressing is quite specific. This does not mean that our views are different, or that I do not understand what you are getting at, because I do.

    1. a body of words and the systems for their use common to a people who are of the same community or nation, the same geographical area, or the same cultural tradition: the two languages of Belgium; a Bantu language; the French language; the Yiddish language.
    2. communication by voice in the distinctively human manner, using arbitrary sounds in conventional ways with conventional meanings; speech.
    3. the system of linguistic signs or symbols considered in the abstract (opposed to speech ).
    4. any set or system of such symbols as used in a more or less uniform fashion by a number of people, who are thus enabled to communicate intelligibly with one another.
    5. any system of formalized symbols, signs, sounds, gestures, or the like used or conceived as a means of communicating thought, emotion, etc.: the language of mathematics; sign language.
    6. the means of communication used by animals: the language of birds.
    7. communication of meaning in any way; medium that is expressive, significant, etc.: the language of flowers; the language of art.
    8. linguistics; the study of language.
    9. the speech or phraseology peculiar to a class, profession, etc.; lexis; jargon.
    10. a particular manner of verbal expression: flowery language.
    11. choice of words or style of writing; diction: the language of poetry.
    12. Computers. a set of characters and symbols and syntactic rules for their combination and use, by means of which a computer can be given directions: The language of many commercial application programs is COBOL.
    13. a nation or people considered in terms of their speech.
    14. Archaic. faculty or power of speech.

  32. Allan says:

    Yes, i think we agree. Your list of definitions uses words like ‘signs’, ‘symbols’, ‘gestures’, etc, but nowhere does it mention ‘spelling’.
    Spelling makes up a written word, and the word is the symbol, not the spelling.
    So, we can write ‘honour’, ‘honor’, ‘onner’, or maybe in text, ‘onr’. They would all signify the same word, which is the symbol.

  33. Mikey says:

    4. any set or system of such symbols as used in a more or less uniform fashion by a number of people, who are thus enabled to communicate intelligibly with one another.

    I think that pretty much covers spelling.

  34. Allan says:

    Mikey: Okay, lets test it. .Lets take the examples i used – ‘honour’, ‘honor’, ‘onner’, ‘onr’.
    Ar they parts of the language?

  35. Mikey says:

    *Goes outside. Enjoys life.*

  36. Skins de Slick says:


    Now let Skins tell you sloth jockeys a little tongue whip about the language… of love.

    Baby, when the moon is bright in the sweetness of your eye, it’s time to make another… your lover… and the stars are pointing to Skins. Skins de Slick.

    Skins de Slick is an expert in the comma sutra, so don’t worry, baby, this will only last a clause… then we’ll slide to the next clause.

    Baby, you on your period? Skins has a capital to start your next sentence, and he ain’t talkin’ ’bout no Washington Monument neither.


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