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Wendy

Are you absolutely sure the words are identical in meaning?

I always understood the difference between the British and the American spelling, but, I have always used different versions of the word depending on the manner in which it is to be used.

"Center" would be a synonym for "middle". (He stood in the center of the circle.)

"Centre" would be the word used to describe a gathering place. (The crowd gathered at the new Arts and Innovation Centre.)

Wouldn't you agree the use of the word goes beyond simply a British vs. American preference?

JanW

We run into similar issues in Australia. As an American transplant, it has taken me awhile to get used to it. The -re v -er endings can be confusing for things like 'meter' and 'metre'. I believe that in Aussie English, 'meter' is the instrument used to measure things, but 'metre' is a measurement of distance. So in this example, the -re and -er have different meanings, but I don't believe it is the case with centre and center.

Other changes: doubling consonents when adding endings on words like levelling [Aus] instead of leveling [Amer].

I'm involved in a writing project with two Australian women and we run into this challenge all the time, especially with spellcheck in our work processors.

Jan

Paul

I agree on the Canadian use of centre/center

centre - middle
centre - gatehering place

We use the same with meter/metre as well

meter - measuring device
metre - unit of length

Enno van der Velde

But is it: Leiden University Medical Center or: ... Centre? Judging from the latter comments, it would be "Centre", but that does not feel right. From a Google search it seems that "Medical Centres" are in the UK and Canada, and "Medical Centers" are in the US (and in Holland!).

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Both are correct, although "Centre" is often used in most "dependents" british colonies, while "Center" is used in US and by people who follow american grammar rules(just like me).
For example, my lecturers always argue with me when I use american grammar(I study in Namibia, and they make the impossible to follow british rules).
"center - middle
centre - gatehering place"
And what about Shopping Center?

One love

Stevan Piescic

It is interesting how the English brought English to North America many years ago.

But Americans had to change it

Erik Goodall

I find this interesting. Has anyone ever thought about centre as the noun spelling like the centre of a circle as a thing?
Whereas center is a verb like to center the pin in the hole is the act of centering.
I agree that both can work for both meanings and it's just a difference in american/canadian spellings. I do not agree, however, that metre can be spelled meter when referring to the unit of measurement as this is wrong. Meter is the measuring instrument and also a verb like to meter something is like measuring something, I feel it is improper to mix the spellings up on these.

Daniel Beijerling

An interesting discussion indeed. If I go to www.askoxford.com and perform a dictionary search for “center” I get the following definition:

centre
(US center)
• noun 1 a point in the middle of something that is equally distant from all of its sides, ends, or surfaces. 2 a place where a specified activity is concentrated. 3 a point from which something spreads or to which something is directed: the city was a centre of discontent. 4 a political group whose opinions avoid extremes. 5 the middle player in some team games.

Clearly in official British English there is only one spelling with multiple meanings. This does make for some interesting reading though:
“The centre [meaning 3] of attention was the team’s centre [meaning 5] in the centre [meaning 1] of the centre [meaning 2].”

The idea that the two different spellings have two separate meanings is something that has apparently developed outside of the UK. When we direct our focus to former British colonies, we see that both the spellings and meanings are often used inconsistently and interchangeably.

For example, in the middle of Hamilton city, New Zealand – where I live – you will find the “Center Place Shopping Centre”. You will also find that the “Information Centre” provides information about the “city center”, including the location of the nearest medical centers/centers, the “Hamilton East Medical Centre” and the “North Care Medical Center”.

While surfing the internet I came across the following controversial article that you may also enjoy, entitled “The British Don’t Know How to Spell” in which some interesting comparison are made between British and American English.

Since English is my second language I have no patriotic preference. In fact, considering that many English speaking countries now actually have their own official English dictionaries, it is probably a little pretentious to only include British and American English in a debate as to which spelling and/or meaning is most correct or preferred.

Don Lis

This is another example of how ignorant and arrogant native speakers try to play “language teachers” with bad English and silly misconceptions. You make the job of learning English unnecessarily difficult for new learners with your barrage of misinformation.
First, there is no such thing as “British English”,” Canadian English”, “Australian English” or any other dialect that is described as the whole language. There are different ways of speaking and spelling English words within the boundaries of the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia and New Zealand. People in those countries can often tell where someone is from by the way they speak and they may be fellow American, Canadians, Australians, etc. There are about 25 major dialects in England alone.
Variations in pronunciation, spelling and other usage vary from one region to the other and are NOT limited to a national boundary. Every state in the United States has enough distinction in their pronunciation to allow others to identify them. While “English is English” is current truism, the fact is that NO TWO SPEAKERS have the same accent just as no two speakers speak exactly the same.
We have ONE large language identified by the Oxford English Dictionary and other lexicons throughout the English speaking countries. All of them identify various spellings and pronunciation but ALL are within the general lexicon of the language. Merriam Webster Collegiate derives many of its definitions and most of its etymologies from the Oxford English Dictionary.
It is an empty, pointless discussion which should be centered on good sentence formation and larger vocabularies for those who want to be better educated and better speakers.
Most of the world is learning English as quickly as possible. It is a huge language and describes almost everything that we can see, hear or imagine. Those of us who are native speakers should consider the benefits of having our language become the world’s lingua franca and give us the ability to speak to people wherever we travel or wherever we meet other people.

Crof

Well, Don, I'm grateful for your post but a little confused about your point.

Of course "British English" is really a mass of different dialects and accents--but in Standard British English, you'll find "centre" not "center." The same is true for all other anglophone countries; in September my wife and I visited Newfoundland, and found several distinct accents (and grammars) among the the people we spoke with. No doubt they found our accents pretty distinctive too.

Whether we consider the benefits or not, English is becoming the lingua franca of the world. As such, it is fragmenting still more into different dialects. I think that's neat, because it enriches English as a whole. A checkpoint in India is a checknaka. Salt water in British Columbia is saltchuck. A car smash in Memphis, Tennessee is a fender-bender in LA.

I'm not interested in saying one dialect is better than another. Standard Canadian English isn't the same as Standard New Zealand English, but we can understand one another while enjoying the differences.

I prefer to describe these Englishes, rather than prescribe one dialect over another. But I do often object to abuses of the language that make understanding harder--like using "flaunt" for "flout," or saying "Me and him went out for a drink."

Account Deleted

Both centre and center refer to the middle of objects, meeting places, and certain sporting positions.
http://atishay.blackitsoft.com

Account Deleted

Every state in the United States has enough distinction in their pronunciation to allow others to identify them,Both are correct, although "Centre" is often used in most "dependents" british colonies, while "Center" is used in US and by people who follow american grammar rules, I liked your blog it’s very interesting, your information had helped me very much, Please keep on posting the related information regarding this Article.

my50Dollars

WOW you guys!
Blah Blah.. bligiddy blah big boob heads!
Let ppl use what they want... just know that center and centre mean the same.

Tiffany ~~

Good article, thanks. x3
@Don, of course there is such thing as 'British English', for example if a kid spelled 'color' in an English essay in UK or NZ, they would get marks taken off because it is considered the wrong spelling /in that country/, so yes, English can be limited by national boundaries.

RealDiehl

As an American I've always found it quite humerus, humourous, humorous that I can easily understand most British and Australian accents whereas I need subtitles to make out what someone with a strong Louisiana "bayou" accent is saying. In fact the only time I've needed subtitles to understand a British accent (aside from certain skits from The Benny Hill Show) is when I was watching an interview with the Gallagher Brothers of the band, Oasis. I was amazed to hear the question, "Do you know what I mean?", condensed into two syllables. As I'm sure that people who come to the South Jersey/Philadelphia area are amused by that fact that the bizarre word, "Jeet", is actually a question, "Did you eat?" or that the word, "Imago" pronounced, I-ma-go, actually means, "I am going to go".

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I always thought that the whole "er" or "re" thing was the Americans trying to simplify the spelling of the language by spelling it the way it sounds. In doing so they lose the meaning of the suffix though. "er" generally means a person or thing that does something. Examples "swimmer", "computer", "killer", "baseball player", etc. etc. "er" as such is a phoneme and by spelling centre as "center" you lose the recognition of the phoneme in the language. This in my opinion makes it more difficult for learners of English when faced with words that they don't know. If the phoneme is used consistently then when they see a word that ends in "er" the students should be able to take a guess that it is referring to a person in some way.
*shrugs* But given that people aggressively defend their own ways of doing things, I doubt that it will happen in the near future.

Account Deleted

why it is enter not entre when it is centre not center

Laurel L. Russwurm

Years after naming my child for my grandfather did I learn that it was an Anglicization of his real name. Not so long ago people with ethnic surnames were encouraged to anglicize them so they would fit in better in Canada.

Canadian spelling is legitimate, but finding a single authoritative authority (as evidenced by many of the the previous comments) the differences between what we were taught in school and the American spellings used by our media have left many of us even more confused.

I actually found my way here because I'm a Canadian writer self publishing my first novel, and I want the spelling to be Canadian. But like Wendy, I've long held a suspicion that the Arts Centre was spelled differently than the one in the middle. Glad to have that one cleared up. :)

Oceanus 9

BTW, RealDiehl, "humorous/humourous" and "humerus" are TWO distinct words with entirely different meanings. The former pair means funny, the latter refers to the upper arm bone!!! While this homophone lead to the informal "funny bone" in reference to hitting one's elbow and the resultant funny feeling from jarring the ulnar nerve at the humeral/ulnar juncture (elbow), "humerus" is not an acceptable adjective to describe something as funny!

Vasco Almeida

It appears that "Emma Chizzit" might be of Scottish origin.

http://juistscots.blogspot.pt/2011/05/emma-chizzit.html

It's just natural since not everybody from the UK was English!!! Although we usually assume they were, except if they wear green on St. Patrick's day on the USA :)....

Hence it might just be that those people on far away island and lands like New Zealand and Australia might have kept their original languages, but confuse it with English over several generations.

D

I just watched an episode of Doctor Who and on a building they had Centre, which made me wonder. I'm from the U.S and seen both spellings, depending on the usage. I always took Centre as a place to gather, or used in math.

I've used both spellings of Through or Thru, depending on how I felt it should be used. Do you use it as I was reminiscing through the ages, or I was reminiscing thru the ages. To me thru gives more of a personal dialect to what your saying. If that makes sense.

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