Animatronic Austrade oobleck

I recently had to edit my Firefox persdict.dat file to remove a misspelled word which I'd added to the dictionary by mistake. It's not very hard to edit the dictionary, but Firefox apparently provides no graphical-interface way to do it. This is a bit of a pain for "normal" users.

(Note: If Firefox is still running when you edit the dictionary, it'll keep rewriting the old version of it over the corrected one.)

Aaaanyway, this gave me the chance to view my personal Firefox dictionary. I found it entertaining:


Full disclosure: The above does not include several Commonwealth-spelling words which I'd added to the dictionary because I hadn't yet switched to the English-Australian dictionary.

Changing dictionaries in Firefox is another thing that's not as simple as it ought to be, but it's still pretty easy. If you want a non-US-English dictionary, you just download and install it, like any other add-on.

I like how the Australian dictionary shows up in the add-on list:

Australian English dictionary add-on for Firefox

As regular readers will know, I'm actually pretty much on the fence about Commonwealth/Australian versus USA spelling. This ambivalence extends to language usage in general.

"Pretty much", for instance, smells American - so, often, does "pretty" by itself - but I'd much rather use it instead of "by and large".

(And, conversely, "much rather" is a Commonwealth-smelling term. "Rather" by itself is pretty darn English, even if you don't split it into "rah-THERR!")

I spell "humour" and "valour" and "colour" with a U, but not because I think it's some sort of badge of, um, honour. And I often write "I guess" instead of "I suppose", because I think "guess" conveys the meaning of the term more effectively, even if it's generally agreed to be a distinctly American coinage.

There are also several Commonwealth spellings that're simply ridiculous. Like "programme", which England adopted in the 1800s because, at the time, it was cool to sound French. America never got that memo, so they stuck with the older, far more sensible, "program".

Likewise, "analogue" pains me every time I write it.

Feel free to paste your own amusing user-dictionaries, or heretical personal unpatriotic usage preferences, in the comments.

28 Responses to “Animatronic Austrade oobleck”

  1. Rodafowa Says:

    Doesn't programme / program depend on usage? Television programme, computer program.

    [Yes, some people do accept this usage, but it's not as if the two things are so often confused that different spellings are required. -Dan]

    It's been fifteen years since GCSE Computer Studies though, so that may well be outdated / misremembered / flat wrong.

  2. kamikrae-z Says:

    The only ones that come to mind are center/centre, meter/metre and enrol/enroll which surprisingly, aren't on this comprehensive page:

  3. Mohonri Says:

    As a US citizen, it bugs me to no end that we insist on writing dates incorrectly i.e. mm/dd/yy. Everyone else in the world, as far as I know, uses the far more sensible dd/mm/yy.

    However, very few people use the ideal formatting, which of course is yyyy-mm-dd. This makes life much more pleasant when sorting things by date--a simple alphabetic sort puts the dates in the correct order.

  4. Coderer Says:

    My absolute favorite is that you write "buggerload" often enough to bother adding it to your custom dictionary.

    [Never yet used on, but used four times so far on this blog, not counting this post! -Dan]

    I'm kind of curious how "combinations" got in there, seeing as it's in my (FF dictionary already, and... uh, a correctly-spelled common word, and all.

    [Haven't a clue. -Dan]

  5. FuzzyPlushroom Says:

    No Commonwealth spellings? Then what's "aluminium"?

    [The one I forgot to delete :-). -Dan]

    Honestly, some of these have no excuse for being absent. "Subwoofer"? "Combinations"? (Which comes up fine for me.) "animatronic"?

  6. Steven Den Beste Says:

    I remember one time seeing a photo of something that was given to American soldiers in the early 1940's when they were sent to England. It was pretty much a briefing on cultural differences, and in particular on language differences, and it included an English-to-American dictionary.

    Among other entries:

    British "lorry" == American "truck"
    British "faggot" == American "cigarette" [Did it actually say that, and possibly do even further harm to Anglo-American relations, or was it the correct "fag"? I don't think the full "faggot" ever meant "cigarette". -Dan]
    British "first floor" == American "second floor"
    British "pissed" == American "drunk"

  7. GeeJay Says:

    I may be just too Aussie but it grates me sooo much when I read or hear an American say 'off of something' as in 'I brushed the dust off of my sweater'...its a jumper by the way...the 'of' is always superfluous. Likewise what does 'lighting something on fire' mean??? You're just lighting the wick, cigarette, any other flammable item....what do you say when you just light a fire...'I'm going to light the fire on fire'??? Seems like there is no American for just setting something on fire...or maybe it's just me...

  8. arteitle Says:

    #3: Japan uses that year-first date scheme, which I agree, is the most logical.

    #7: "Lighting something on fire" means the same as "setting something on fire", I suppose as opposed to lighting it in a different sense, such as with a spotlight. We'd never say "I'm going to light the fire on fire", because that implies trying to ignite already-burning flames ("the fire").

  9. Chazzozz Says:

    No Commonwealth spellings? Then what’s "aluminium"?

    It's actually the correct way of spelling it. :)

    This article on the World Wide Words web site tells the whole story.

  10. Cods Says:

    Slightly off topic as it's not specifically spelling related, however can anyone explain how the "to" was lost in the American version of phrases similar to "write to me"?
    To my mind "write me" constantly conjures the "Say something"/"Something" exchange in Pulp Fiction.

    (Yes, I've seen the entry at and the specific note at the aforementioned

  11. baralong Says:

    "Entree" is the one that gets me. How did the US get the "entree" to mean "main course"? Also I get why our "lemonade" isn't the same as thiers, but they have no generic term for sprite like drinks

  12. karl0s Says:

    As an Aussie, I have a two pet hates:
    -A mate of mine (Australian) always uses the US "mom" rather than the far more Aussie "mum" - it grates on my nerves.
    -z where s is fine (e.g. organiSation, customiSation etc)

  13. Itsacon Says:

    > but they have no generic term for sprite like drinks

    Don't they call that `soda pop'?

  14. Daniel Rutter Says:

    Different areas of the USA actually all have their own words for "carbonated soft drink".

  15. omgror Says:

    The one that really annoys me is American pronunciation of Z.
    We have a product here at work called EZ Desk, which of course, in English, is pronounced Ee Zed Desk.

    The dates are annoying as well. What happened on the 9th of November?

  16. Matt Says:

    The american use of entree to mean the main course annoys me too. But it would appear that they're actually correct. From Wikipedia:

    ""The word entrée is French. It originally denoted the "entry" of the main course from the kitchens into the dining hall.""

  17. kamikrae-z Says:

    #7 - you incidentally reminded me of the whole flammable/inflammable thing. In all honesty I prefer flammable.

    Another phrase that used to get my goat was "my bad"...

    Until I started using it :P

  18. Bern Says:

    Yeah, entree is a classic example of how American spelling is actually, in some sense, the "historically correct" way to spell. IIRC, the 'u' in colour, favour, etc was added later, similarly with changing the 'z' to 's' in many words, like organise etc. As I understand it, the Americans still spell it much the same as was done in the 16th & 17th centuries. The rest of the english-speaking world moved on from there some time ago... :-P

    Reminds me of an experience I had the first time I visited the US back in 2000. The checkout operator in a small supermarket in suburban Detroit, upon realising we were Australian, said, "Oh, my Uncle visited Australia, and you know, we always say Canada is 20 years behind the US, and he said Australia is 20 years behind Canada!"

    This, while we were looking at a little sign saying "we now accept electronic payment at the register". A mere 16 *years* after the whole of Australia rolled out the EFTPOS network...

    That, and the guy from New York who worked in a corner store, and was telling his friends about this wonderful new technology, where there's this pattern of stripes on the packet, and you just wave it over a light, and the price comes up automatically, without you having to enter it in. No, seriously, he *did* say that!

  19. Daniel Rutter Says:

    entree is a classic example of how American spelling is actually, in some sense, the "historically correct" way to spell

    Essentially, the American fork of the English language branched off around the time of the Revolution, which was slightly before white folk even knew Australia existed.

    Australia, in contrast, remained closely connected to the UK until well after Federation (in 1901). So we inherited all of their changes to the language, including absurdities like "gaol" for "jail". You can tell a spelling's really stupid when you have to tell people what word it's supposed to be.

    Australians also sometimes incorrectly view American usages that're actually quite old as being distasteful modern coinages.

    (Note that I don't actually think there's anything wrong with "young" words as opposed to "old" ones.)

    Take "gotten", for instance. Faux-sophisticated Commonwealth types often view "gotten" as some sort of awful Yankee creation, when it's actually a perfectly good past-participle of "get" that's only slightly less old than the hills.

  20. arteitle Says:

    18: something was wrong with the guy who was amazed at barcodes, because of course they've been commonplace on product packaging throughout the world for at least 30 years. U.S. shops have accepted credit cards for decades, but it's only within the last ten years or so that they've started accepting debit cards as an alternative form of payment.

  21. arteitle Says:

    One aspect of the split between North American English pronunciation and English English pronunciation that I find interesting is the difference between rhotic and non-rhotic accents. At one time all English speakers pronounced the letter 'R' wherever it occurred, but in the 17th century it started being dropped, and during the 18th century non-rhoticism became widespread in England. That fad didn't translate across the Atlantic, so North Americans still pronounce it the way the English once did (with a few regional and cultural exceptions, including African American Vernacular English, also known as "ebonics").

  22. phrantic Says:

    Egad! How often do you use "autoerotic" that it has made its way into your dictionary?

  23. Daniel Rutter Says:

    The source for "autoerotic".

    (That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.)

  24. bmorey Says:

    If Dickens spelled 'program' that way it's good enough for me. As Miles Kington pointed out two decades ago 'programme' is a Frenchified affectation.

  25. Darien Says:

    I'm an American myself, but I've always spelled a lot of words the "British" way due to reading quite a few British books when I was rather young and just picking up those spellings. Colour, armour, realise, so forth.

    Caused a bit of consternation with my teachers when I was in grammar school. ;-)

  26. stewpot2 Says:

    It was good to read the Straight Dope article on 'faggot'.

    For years, I used to think that my family was the only family in the world that used faggot as a term for a mischievous child. My mother called me a faggot many a time as a kid in the 70s.

    One peculiarity of American English I've never been able to handle is 'in back of', as in 'I've parked in back of the shop'. I realise it's the opposite of 'in front of', which makes perfect sense to me, but I can't get used to it.

  27. Darien Says:

    One of the neat things about American English is that it's intensely regional. My wife and I are from different places within the US, and the differences between English-as-I-know-it and English-as-she-knows-it have led to some amusement over the years. It's not just pronunciation, either -- there are a fair few significant differences in the way we form sentences. She tends to omit prepositions, for example.

  28. Ubertakter Says:

    No kidding American English is regional. In fact, I used to work with someone from New Orleans who could identify what part of the city they came from based on their accent (that is, pronunciation and usage).

    I suspect that most countries are this way, as in Scotts speak English but it's not the same as British-English. Different regions have different pronunciations and usages. I know in America you can trace family heritage by certain word usages and pronunciations. Of course that's not entirely reliable but it some cases it helps create a complete picture of family history.

    And to all the people who get uptight about pronunciation and usage, get over it. There are more important things to worry about.

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