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Thursday, October 1, 2009


Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s the 80% worker’s Friday, and we consult the iPod, once again, in order to divine, from my morning’s commute, the upcoming weekend’s events.

Cold Sweat by James Brown
Rock and Roll Queen by The Subways
Thursday by Morphine
The Story by Brandi Carlisle
I Can See for Miles by The Who
Just A Little Heat by the Black Keys
Shame and Fortune by Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Hmmm. Anybody else see what I’m seeing? Looks like Bloody Marys, swapping out the summer clothes for winter, and watching Incidental Weekend, a movie directed by Nick of Nick Nack Blog Attack.

That’s what you saw, right?

And now, a word on a word.

That word? Aluminum/Aluminium.

This blog has been the site of my unabashed proclamations of love for the Brits on several occasions. Why? Frankly, why not? Like I’ve got anything better to do with my time. Besides! Look at ‘em. They’re just so darn cute, aren’t they, with those clever accents, wearing “jumpers” and once running the whole darn world. Amazing.

No. Wait.


It was because of the Brits, however, that my public-school run of perfect spelling ended. That’s right – I misspelled only one word (at least during the tests) between kindergarten and 12th grade, and I blame others.

That word?


I had been reading one of the Lord of the Rings books at the time, so you know how I spelled it, don’t you?


Oh, how I suffered, the indignant pain of the straight-A student. I knew how to spell it the American way – I was just showing off! How could the teacher not have seen that? Nearing her retirement date, she wasn’t interested in my explanations – we were in that particular town for less than a year and she and I never did warm to each other – and the little gold star that should’ve gone in my row for that week’s test remained absent.

I think I'm pretty much over it now.

But recent conversation with Vin, The Group’s Token Brit, has brought that bitter pain back to the fore.

I refer to the word “aluminum”.

Appears that the word was originally “aluminum” and then changed to “aluminium” (to partake of the –ium ending that all the other elements were into). It wasn’t until a particularly dull drinking game at the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry shortly after the “two-i” spelling was adopted that the Americans took an inexplicable hard turn and went back to “aluminum”.

I may or may not have made that last bit up, although it would be a helluva lot more interesting than the apparently flip-flopping that actually seems to have happened. Believe me, you can spend all day ignoring what you should be doing in exchange for looking up the stories behind the dual spellings of “aluminium” and still not walk away fully satisfied.

So there you have it. One word: two spellings, two pronunciations.

Yep. This is what I’m thinking about today. Spelling.



Suzanne said...

Theatre? Coulour? Learnt?

All private favrourites of mine.

Is there such a word as britofile?

Suzanne said...

Or perhaps colour. it is important to spell the wrongly spelled word correctly. ;)

Pearl said...

Suzanne, actually, now that I think of it, I could've used the word "anglophile" in there somewhere, but you just reminded me of it. :-)

CatLadyLarew said...

What a horrible blot on your record! When I was in third grade I had an exchange teacher from England, Miss King. I thought she was wonderful! She taught me how to write in cursive with nice, round, upright letters... which my later teachers tried to get me to slant "properly". *more sighs*

@eloh said...

I can't think about those days...I'm back to being a fat kid running around the classroom being chased by the eight foot pock faced evil teacher...oh the nightmares.

Anonymous said...

I'm a Brit - and I deserve to be adored for the way I spell theatre, honour and travelled... and because I use proper words like pavement and lifts. And because pants are something we wear under our trousers.. and...

Oh, sorry! It will always be aluminium for me!

Gaston Studio said...

I never liked the way the Brits say aluminiumn, so many more syllables and it kind of rankled. But it's their country, they can say it any way they like.

Tamsin said...

I've always longed to point out to an American audience that what Brits actually say is "alu-min-yum", and not "alu-mini-um".

Being born in the UK and now living in the US, I consider myself a bit of an expert on the matter. *cough, cough*.

Rankle no longer.

powdergirl said...

Well, it is their language after all.

Don't tell anyone, Pearl, but I've got an normous crush on Britain. Yeah, all of it, spelling, accent, what bits of history I know... and the humour... the whole thing.

Whats really nice for me is that this little town I live in has been steadily filling up with ex-pat Brits! Can you believe my luck !!??

Jess said...

Those crazy Brits! And Canadians! Thank goodness both countries have embraced beer. Even though those Europeans like their warm. GACK!

the iNDefatigable mjenks said...

The "ium" ending isn't given to ALL elements. Just metals. However, since aluminum IS a metal, I think that aluminium is perfectly acceptable.

However, there are a few notable exceptions to the "ium" ending for metals: tungsten, gold, cobalt, zinc, silver, copper, mercury, lead, tin.

You'll notice, though, that most of those are names accepted into English from other languages (Latin, Green, German), and were formed well before IUPAC started bringing the hammer down on those of us who prefer acetylene to ethyne.

the iNDefatigable mjenks said...

Oh, and do you know why we dropped the u out of honour, colour and the like?

Daniel Webster, when writing his dictionary, wanted to thumb his nose at the Brits one last time. Therefore, he changed the spellings to reflect that we were no longer under the crown. In a wave of patriotism mixed with a frothy, foamy brew of illiteracy, those spellings were quickly accepted.

Anonymous said...

I too am an "aluminium" sort. I can't bring myself to say "aluminum" because it's lazy without that extra syllable. Sort of like "airplane" and "aeroplane" and dropping "U"s all over the place.

Also I don't get why dreamt, learnt and spoilt aren't used on this side of the Atlantic. They're perfectly good words!

But y'all can keep saying you fell on your "fanny" because that amuses the living shit out of us Brits. :)

Roshni Mitra Chintalapati said...

as you know, we Indians have pretty much been hammered with Brit spelling and pronunciation...It still totally cheeses me off when the spellchecker redlines my correctly spelled words, like honour, colour, learnt etc!! (see!! Its doing it again!!!)

Lynn said...

I love your train of thought. I am a reasonably intelligent person, but if not for spell check I would seem the retard.

I'm having an excellent give away! Please join in the fun of promoting ME!!!

Oh, and I do not think you are really "over it."

prashant said...

I think of it, I could've used the word "anglophile" in there somewhere, but you just reminded me of it.
Make website india

Kevin Musgrove said...

Accents? Accents? We don't have accents. Well, they might do dahn sarf where they all talk like Dick Van Dyke but not us proper English folk.

Otherwise, it were a reet gradely post. (-:

The Jules said...

Chuffing gert post love.

Anonymous said...

We in Canada were doubly screwed in the spelling department. In school we learned the 'our' honor, but when I went into newspaper work we were expected to use the 'or' (or Yank spelling, as it's called here) spelling of honor, for the sake of frugality. Crusty old Brits would write snarky letters to the editor decrying our shoddy standards by not using the Queen's spelling. Now, because I'm so conditioned as a journalist I stick with the 'or' version, but center I still spell as centre.

Green-Eyed Momster said...

I did a whole post on aluminum foil. I sure hope I spelled it correctly!

Hey Pearl,
When I came to visit you today I saw that you had 299 followers so now my Hubby is following you too so that you could have an even 300 followers.

You are so awesome!


Beth said...

You just made me want a Bloody Mary. Or is it Merry?

Dr Zibbs said...

You can never go wrong with The Who.

Douglas said...

Ah, school... The horrors, the degradations, the humiliations I was forced to tolerate during those years. All because the alleged teachers thought they were smarter than me. They may have been better educated, sure, but they did not have themselves for teachers so right there they had an edge. And I think that spelling issue is why the British lost control of their empire. Besides, we scruffy American colonialists beat `em, didn't we?

Thanks for allowing me to vent.

Joanna Jenkins said...

A Straight A Student????? Very impressive Pearl.

James said...

Aluminum has haunted my wife for years. Her parents spoke spanish at home and aluminium was their word as well. Damn near ruined her childhood.

Christine Gram said...

Huh... and here I thought the Brit post-doc in grad school was just a dumb ass.

CatLadyLarew said...

To honour your marvelous, mad spelling skills, I passed on an award to you over at the CatLady's house.

bettyl said...

I never knew aluminum had 5 syllables until I met my Brit hubby!

Pat said...

I learned that Brits/Irish spelled and pronounced aluminum as aluminium when I spent a year in Dublin as an exchange student in 1968-69. I was quite surprised, dare I say, shocked.

Pat said...

In the 1950s-60s everyone in the US said "care-uh-BEE-yun," but now we all say "cuh-RIB-ee-yun." Also, back in the day we said "huh-RASS" for harass, but now it is "HAIR-us." What's up with that?

Anonymous said...

Cor blimey darlin'! The Oo! Get u sweetheart! Rub a dub...dub...something!