Saturday, September 19, 2009

Canadian Spelling

Yeah, I use it sometime, and not elsewhere. In particular I am learning to give up on inserting the useless 'u' in 'our' endings. It adds no value.
But this last week I was reading an enjoyably mischievous book, "The Act of Roger Murgatroyd". I was reading it as a result of a tip from Harriet Devine.
The book itself is a wonderful trifle, a pastiche of Agatha Christie novels with suitable postmodern intrusions from Gilbert Adair. If you are male and you want Gilbert to entertain you I strongly suggest "The Dreamers" (where he gets a LOT of help from Eva Green).
But back to the book. In the story there comes a turn that depends in a major way on the spelling of "behavio/ur".
This passage caught my eye.
"Then there are the Rolfes, who lived several years in Canada before Henry's misadventures in the operating-theatre brought him and Madge back, via the Riviera, tp dear old England. Now correct me if I'm wrong, but I've always understood that the Canadians spell the American way, not the British."
How subtle is Gilbert Adair? I think pretty subtle, in fact.
At NO time in my life in school did I learn other than the 'our' spelling. Moreover, almost no living Canadian could read that passage without a degree of astonishment, I think.
But I think Adair is right. The novel is set in the '30s. Our infatuation with spelling differently from the USAians is new (well, it swings back and forth). I believe I heard some of this one morning with Andy Barrie interviewing Catherine Barber, and I am quite sure from what Andy has said that he will see this post in the next day or two.
Can he recall? Andy - please comment, or enlist Catherine.
I think Adair is right. But I will say I found it a bit off-putting, as I consciously choose my spelling.


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