Rationalizing Americanisms

Be honest, we are all slightly pedantic aren’t we? It’s part of being a good programmer. We obsess over spaces vs tabs; curly brackets; whitespace; class names; variable names; any names; just about anything that has the potential to cause a difference of opinion or get us hot under the collar.

Add to that the inherent pedantry that comes with being British and you have a potent mixture. And nothing, it seems, upsets us more than the flagrant abuse of our language by our cousins over the pond. To our dear American friends we say: you can have your sidewalks and your diapers; we’ll file those under ‘regional dialect’; but you overstepped the mark when you monkeyed around with our spellings. For us British programmers, perhaps the worst of all these violations is color. Every time we open a CSS file it’s like a slap in the face.*

And so it happens with each new cohort at Makers Academy, that at some point in week one (Object Oriented Programming with Ruby) Slack erupts with complaints about def initialize [bloody Americanisms] and my inner pedant stirs. But not for the reason you might expect...

For initialize is, and always has been, the correct English spelling. As has organize and realize. Since long before America was even a thing.

‘UK English’ spell checkers almost always convert ‘organize’ to ‘organise’ and so cement the misconception that ‘-ize’ spellings are Americanisms. Most often, they aren’t.

So, to our American friends, we apologize for unnecessarily criticizing your spelling of initialize. Nevertheless…if we could just amend CSS to recognize ‘colour’, we’d be immensely grateful.

*but we’re very British about it and take it with good humour (that’s humor if you’re from the other side).

Originally published at blog.silvabox.com on October 1, 2016.

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