Canadian and American Spelling: Your Guide from Q to Z

Language & Editing


Stop right there. Did you read "queue to zee"? If you did, you're using American pronunciation. Up here in the land of butter tarts and Nanaimo bars, we say "queue to zed"—which is why we can't ever get the Alphabet Song to rhyme. But we love our alphabet with its odd ending nonetheless. One of our most popular alphabet books is Eh? To Zed: A Canadian ABeCedarium by Kevin Major, and the "Z" in the title of another one, Z Is for Zamboni: A Hockey Alphabet by Matt Napier, is definitely pronounced "zed."

 

Problems arise when we Canadians want to talk about catching some Zs (catching some Zeds? really?), but on the whole we take a kind of self-deprecating Canadian pride in our distinctive alphabet and, um, idiosyncratic spelling. The government's Language Portal of Canada website features some amusing quizzes, many of them relating to Canadian spelling (www.noslangues-ourlanguages.gc.ca/quiz/index-eng.html) — which you're sure to ace once you've studied the lists in this series of blogs closely.

 

For the A to G Canadian/American spelling guide, click here

For the H to P Canadian/American spelling guide, click here 

A(nother) Word about Canadian Identity

It's a national obsession: Who are we? Donald Sutherland has the final word on that. Here’s what he recently said in Cannes:

 

I kind of gave up talking about Canadian cinema a long time ago. There's a famous story of a British soldier and a French soldier and a Canadian soldier who were captured in the process of the war and sent to be shot by firing squad, but they were each given an opportunity to have a last wish. The Brit asked for a cup of tea, the Canadian asked for fifteen minutes to talk about Canadian identity, and the Frenchman asked to be shot before the Canadian.

 

CANADIAN

AMERICAN

racquet (tennis)

racket (tennis)

rancour

rancor

rancorous

rancorous

referendums

referenda

rigour

rigor

rigorous

rigorous

rumour

rumor

saleable

salable

saviour

savior

savour

savor

savory (herb)

savory (herb)

savoury

savory

sceptre

scepter

signalled

signaled

sizable

sizable

skepticism

skepticism

smoulder

smolder

sombre

somber

spectre

specter

splendour

splendor

squalor

squalor

storey (building)

story (building)

succour

succor

sulphur

sulfur

theatre

theater

tranquilize

tranquilize

traveller

traveler

tumour

tumor

valour

valor

valorous

valorous

vapour

vapor

vigour

vigor

vigorous

vigorous

woolen

woollen

woolly

woolly

worshipper

worshiper