Tag Archiv: Americans

Identity Crisis

Country Flags by Bill Longshaw, courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Country Flags by Bill Longshaw, courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Spelling is complicated. When I was growing up, I spelled like an American because I was one. And because Americans owned the red pens and the stickers for my spelling tests.

How, I wondered when I first came to Canada, could the people seem so cultured and yet spell so poorly? Then I got a job. I deliberated with myself about the merits of intentionally learning to spell things incorrectly, but I have always been highly motivated by red pens and stickers. At first, the new favourite spelling system was a chore. I would stop half way through a word and sigh before going through with the desecration.

By the time I clamoured to the designated centre to get myself labelled a real Canadian, it was second nature. Far from humouring those for whom I laboured, it had become a matter of honour to spell things as any good Canadian would. I took my own high calibre┬áred pen to work on my students’ papers . . . thirty kilometres south this would be fine, I noted – ┬áhere, it’s a misspelled word.

Enter the blog. What now? I say to myself. Most of the time I write in Word, then cut and paste to the blog. My computer, obviously Canadian, spells as I have told it to. When I go back and do my edits, the program that runs the blog, grabs its own red pen and yells, “We own the internet. Spell like an American.”

Dialogue ensues.

Me: Stop telling me what to do. I’m Canadian flavoured now. If you want to get snippy, I’m still American enough to fight about it.

Other Me: There are more Americans than Canadians. Maybe you should spell like an American. If you ever sell something, they’ll be the ones to write the checks.

Me: Blog readers are split half and half and that doesn’t count the people in Europe. When the cheques arrive, I’ll take it under advisement.

Other Me: What about the Mexicans? Or the Koreans? What kind of spelling do they like?

Me: I have no idea. We don’t make our decisions based on what other people think, remember? We don’t colour our hair if we don’t feel like it, even if everyone else thinks it’s just marvellous.

Other Me: Maybe you should spell American. Everybody else you mentioned at least knows that there are various ways to spell things. Americans might have the hardest time coping with something foreign to them. Consider it a meager attempt to be neighborly.

Me: Forget it. This is gruelling. It’ll be half Canadian, half American. Even in the same document. A little of this and a little of that. No rhyme. No reason.

Other Me: This explains why if a group of any ten of your friends were asked what your last name is, three different answers would be forthcoming.

Me: Let’s not over analyse. I’m beginning to feel like an axe.