Bloody Well Write

September 22, 2009

Theatre vs. theater

Some people say that when it comes to spelling that which is theater — er, theatre — it all comes down to snobbery. Well, to that I say,” Poo-poo to you.”

Outside of the United States, especially in countries that had once been under British control, the word is typically spelled theatre. Those who fought to keep the British spelling didn’t want the proper language to become diluted by a bunch of insolent miscreants — bloody Americans. Stateside, however, theater won out as the predominant spelling. Back in the early 1800s, Noah Webster created “An American Dictionary of the English Language” to Americanize the language of the day, taking out as many British-isms as he could manage. One result: Theatre became theater.

It is prudent to maintain the spelling of any company or movie house or whatnot that happens to spell its name one way, even if you think it should be the other. Some examples:

Music Theatre of Wichita

AMC Theatres

Theatre Rhinoceros (but San Francisco Live Queer Theater)

The Theater section of The New York Times

•  “Paradise Theater” by Styx (but Paradise Theatre in Gig Harbor, Wash.)

There is, however, another distinction between the two words that is gaining in popularity. Even though the AP Stylebook hasn’t come around to agreeing yet (but they will), I think that it makes simple sense and provides a reason to use one spelling instead of another, depending on context. And, of course, since the nature of the English language is one of constant transition, I’m all for promoting the separate — yet equal — definitions. (Go ahead, AP: Put up your dukes.)

Going to the theatre tonight — or maybe they ARE the theatre? (photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/a2gemma/40151793)

Going to the theatre tonight — or maybe they are the theatre (photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/a2gemma/40151793)

Theatre = anything related to a performance or study of an art form, which is not a structure (e.g., a degree, a company, a troupe).

Theater = a structure that houses a dramatic production (e.g., movie, play, musical, opera, ballet, dance).

So: If you are going to the theater (bricks and mortar) to work on scene construction or set up lights or mow the front lawn, cool. If you’re getting all dolled up for an evening at the theatre (very posh), have a mahhhvelous time, dahhhling.

Easy as “Waiting for Godot.”

Happy trails!

SAK

September 10, 2009

Into vs. in to

Filed under: grammar,spelling — bloodywellwrite @ 1:31 pm
Tags: ,

This one, folks, is a simple concept.

Into
Use into if you are describing something in motion or something completely entranced with something else:

• She walked into the shoe store.
• The kids jumped into the piles of leaves.
• He is turning into a werewolf.
• They were totally into Jim Morrison’s poetry.

The muddy boys are jumping into the lake (photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/laffy4k/247066114)

The muddy boys are jumping into the lake (photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/laffy4k/247066114)

In to
Use in to if in is used as an adverb and to is used as a preposition connecting the verb to an indirect object.

Think of it this way: If the sentence could technically end after in, then you can add a prepositional phrase (i.e., a non-necessary phrase that starts with a preposition and adds a bit of detail to the sentence) by using to after in (but not changing in to into.

Clear as mud? Here are some examples:

• The concerned citizen turned the wallet in to the police. (It could easily read The concerned citizen turned the wallet in. The prepositional phrase is to the police — interesting additional info but not completely necessary for the completion of the sentence.)
• I will not give in to chocolate cravings.
• He was nervous about handing his assignment in to the instructor.

Pooch gave in to the power of nap time (photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nesster/3701101878)

Pooch gave in to the power of nap time (photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nesster/3701101878)

See? I told you it was a breeze.

Happy trails!

SAK

August 31, 2009

Gray vs. grey

What color is it?

Well, what are we talking about?

An elephant. An oyster. A moody sky. A town in Maine. A city in Georgia. A brewing company. “What’s-her-name’s Anatomy.” One of the lonelier colors in the big box with the cool sharpener.

That’s right — it’s gray. Or is it grey?

Gray can be gorgeous — no matter how you spell it.

Gray can be gorgeous — no matter how you spell it.

The answer depends on your location. If you’re stateside, the color is gray unless it is a person’s or company’s preferred spelling or if you’ve checked Merriam-Webster’s dictionary for first-mentioned spellings.

There are, as always, a few wild hairs:

• Greyhound (a dog, a cocktail)
• Earl Grey (a tea)
• Grey friar (a Franciscan friar)

If you’ve hopped the pond, however, the colour is grey. While you’re in UK English-speaking countries, feel free to use grey as often as you wish, as it is the preferred British spelling.

If you’re writing with the AP Stylebook in mind, however, it doesn’t matter where you are; gray is the way to go. And you know how I feel about the AP Stylebook, don’t you?

Happy trails!

SAK

August 25, 2009

-ward vs. -wards: toward or towards?

Here’s a dodgy problem.

Which one is correct: Toward or towards? Backward or backwards? Forward or forwards?

OK, so it’s not that dodgy. It’s pretty simple, really. Let’s focus on toward vs. towards and realize that the answer will be valid for all -ward words.

According to the Merriam-Webster Online dictionary, as well as a host of other dictionaries and Web sites, both versions are technically correct. But one is — how shall I say it? — more technically correct than the other.

Toward, backward, forward, leftward and any other directionally influenced -ward words are used primarily in the United States. Words that add an “s” at the end are primarily British. One guy even did a Google test to see if this is true and found out that, lo and behold, it stands up to a Google search.

For me, the real test is looking it up in the AP Stylebook — the bible of journalists, ad agencies and many writers — and the answer is clear: Toward is the correct term and towards is unacceptable. End of story.

There you have it — unless you want to sound British for some bloody reason, you cheeky bugger.

Happy trails!

SAK

July 31, 2009

Barbecue vs. barbeque vs. BBQ

Filed under: AP Stylebook,spelling — bloodywellwrite @ 3:55 pm
Tags: , , ,

Ah, summer. Gotta love all the food that seems to go so well with summer’s rising temperatures. Take, for instance, BBQ.

Or is it barbeque? Or bar-b-que? Or barbecue?

It’s not quite as sticky a situation as it may first appear.

I just verified the answer in the trusty AP Stylebook, and it states, plain as a pulled-pork stain: barbecue.

Run, Wilbur, run

Run, Wilbur, run

No q, no abbreviation (although if you’ve already spent the money on the big neon sign — with the wrong spelling — and it’s been attracting patrons for years on end, then by all means, don’t worry about changing the sign).

Happy trails!

SAK

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