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Program or programme?
Balgove
tobyaw

Since starting in computing so many years ago, I've been annoyed by the use of the American spelling program (rather than the British programme). But looking at New Fowler's Modern English Usage, I found:

program, programme. 1 (noun). There is no doubt that the standard spelling in BrE, except in computer language, is programme and in AmE program (all senses). But it was not always so. The word, which is derived from Gk προγραμμα 'a public written notice', was taken into English in the 17C. in the form program, and was the form regularly used by Walter Scott, Carlyle, and numerous other 19C. writers. One could reasonably have expected this spelling of the word to have survived in standard British use after the model of anagram, cryptogram, diagram, etc. Instead, from about the beginning of the 19C., the French spelling programme was adopted, and gradually established itself except in the US. In computer work in all English-speaking countries, the spelling program is routinely used for 'a series of coded instructions to control the operation of a computer'.

Now I'm all confused! Which spelling should I get annoyed at - the historically authentic but American-influenced program, or the pretentious French interloper programme?

(But none of this changes my view on dialogue/dialog!)


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Computer program, television programme.

I think of it as being based on the verb - one programs a computer, while one creates a programme for television or a programme of an evening's entertainment.

The creative arty stuff uses the creative, arty language (French) while the solid practical stuff uses the solid practical language (English).

Not, I hasten to add, that it is impossible to be creative and arty in English!


Ah, but is computer programming an art or a science?

Computer programming is a mixture of four disciplines: art, science, trial and error.

eh, what about color/colour or serialize/serialise

that doesn't work when writing html though

The whole reason that Americans spell such words differently is that Noah Webster compiled a dictionary before the American Revolution. If the Colonial [c. 1770] used Webster's version versus standard British spelling at that time, it was understood that s/he was a patriot, whereas the standard spellers were considered loyalists. It was a subtle way to separate people in terms of identity. Language is arguably one of the most decisive ways of establishing an 'us and them'.

Further to the historical meanings, I consider American English an evolutionary linguistic process, much like the variation of accents between regions.

Correction- Noah Webster compiled his dictionary in 1799. Some reasons given were:

'When Noah was 43, he started writing the first American dictionary. He did this because Americans in different
parts of the country spelled, pronounced and used words differently. He thought that all Americans should speak
the same way. He also thought that Americans should not speak and spell just like the English'.

as someone who has to deal with the idiosyncrasies of both variants on a daily basis, I use a simple rule : if I am writing something for a US audience (ie the people I work with), then I write it in US English. If I'm writing something for a UK audience (or simply something from ME, such as LJ entries), then I write it in British English.

It's surprisingly less confusing than you would think.

Although I do get upset with Webster's dictionary on occasion. Look at their definition of colour...

They say: "chiefly British variant of COLOR"

I say: "Spelling used throughout the English-speaking world, with the exception of the US"


Funnily enough, I was reading an Australian novel the other day, and in it the native writer spelled labour as 'labor'. [She even explained why she did so.] Apparently the Aussies did the same thing for some spellings as the Americans too...

Interesting. In Australia, the standard spelling is labour, except in the name of the Labor Party.

So I'll bite... does Ted Turner "colourise" films, or what? (-:

I think the only answer to that is that Ted Turner shouldn't!

...or to be more pedantic, it should be colourize in English.

Apart from certain verbs which are always spelt -ise (such as advertise, or advise), in most cases in British English the -ise and -ize endings are interchangeable. A general rule of use is words originating in Greek have an -ise ending, and words originating in Latin use -ize, but this varies. Some publishers (such as OUP and The Times) have a house style that uses -ize when there is a choice.

Colour originates from the Latin, so has the -ize ending.

But decolorize is spelt without a 'u' in BrE. Did you expect consistency?

I gave an impromtu "history of the bi-evolution of british/american english" lecture to a load of aussies the other night, who were baffled by a european tourist site which offered audio guides in English and American English. They had no idea that they were at all different ...

Tobes, you should read 'the adventure of english' by Melvyn Bragg. Its an etymological history of the language but written in a very digestible way to give a good overview of especially the formative points (eg the great vowel shift ... don't ask). Will send you my copy for lends if you like ...

That would be interesting.

To be honest, I don't really mind. I tend to use program (n/v) for the IT sense and programme (n) for all others.

That said, and being relatively pragmatic, what spellings I use depends on the audience - for Americans use American spelling, for an international audience use British English. PwC, theoretically, is standardised on British English for external use, but compliance varies.

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