Translating into American…

Jun 19, 2012 | Language

It has often been said that Britain and America are “two nations divided by a common language” (although who said it is not so clear…) and one of the services we offer is the ‘translation’ of UK English into US English, and vice versa. Which may sound simple enough, but Americanization is more than just taking out the ‘u’ in colour and flavour. It involves checking the spelling, vocabulary, grammar, punctuation and even measurements and dates to ensure they are appropriate to the target audience. We can even advise on a mid-Atlantic compromise to reach the widest possible audience with a single English-language edition.

But why do the Americans spell some words differently from the Brits?

Well, an accepted explanation is that the differences between the languages became noticeable after the publication of the first influential dictionaries, such as Samuel Johnson’s A Dictionary of the English Language in the UK and Noah Webster’s An American Dictionary of the English Language in the US. It is the latter which is credited with the adoption of much of the current US spelling – Webster being a staunch supporter of the spelling reform; seeking to make English spelling more consistent and more phonetic. Johnson, however, was not an advocate for these reforms, preferring the French spelling of words.

So, that’s the official explanation, but I rather like comedy writer Gareth Edwards’ take on it – from his Guardian blog – that it’s all down to the British ban on all transatlantic trade in the letter U following the American Declaration of Independence. Read and enjoy here.