UK or US Spelling – not all words should be “Briticised”
There are well-known differences between spelling in the US and UK/Australia – and there are some counties that try to confuse everyone by doing a combination of the two.
In Australia, most people are aware of the -ize/-ise differences. And the “missing vowels”: -or/-our, ter-tre, e/ae, o/oe. Medical jargon is rife with them.
Yet, these extra vowels in British/Australian spellings can cause a problem of their own, creating a tendency to overcorrect our spelling. Jeff Aronson refers to this as misunderspellings.
So when do you need that extra vowel? One common misconception is in the suffix -penia, which is often assumed to be an US spelling simplification. However, unlike -aemia (from the Greek root word haima, meaning blood), the Greek word for poverty is actually penia, not paenia or painia. Therefore the correct spelling is actually osteopenia not osteopaenia. So when you combine the two root words you get haemopenia, not haemopaenia or hemopaenia.
Foetus is another common, although incorrect, “correction”. The root Latin word is fetus, although foetus has been adopted throughout the Commonwealth – possibly because of all the other oe words around. The Australian Style Manual point to the Macquarie Dictionary and the The Australian Oxford Dictionary to clarify spellings and both these resources use fetus, with the added note that “health authorities increasingly recommend the spellings fetus and fetal”.
Another one that can cause problem is the -or/-our suffix and whether to add that extra U for British/Australian spelling. Tumor/tumour is one where the answer is a definite yes. But what about tremor/tremour? There are mixed reports on this one. The word originates from the Latin tremorem (no U); however, the English adopted the word from the Old French where it was spelled with the -our suffix. Today the spelling of tremour is considered obsolete, even in the UK, and the Australian Style Manual points to references that all prefer the spelling tremor.
This US/UK spelling gig is not as easy as it first appears.