Either odd to us or to them and we opt for them

As most of you know by now, I am an admirer of British irony and wit, the subtler instances of which I occasionally highlight or dissect, as here, here, and here. At its best, it is a matter of tone, not a matter of telling jokes. And it is best delivered casually.

Today happens to be our weekly deadline day at The Economist, and I am right now (thanks to the London time zone that I am forced to observe in California) finalizing my piece in the next issue with one of our editors, Ann Wroe, who happens to be one of my favorites (and who is a successful book author in her own right).

In the piece, I quoted an American think tank whose name starts (as they all seem to do) with “Center For The…”

Ann changed it to “Centre For The…”. I asked: Do we change words to British spelling even when they are names?

And she replied:

Yes, words are anglicised even within proper names; it either has to look odd to us or odd to them, and we opt for them.


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12 thoughts on “Either odd to us or to them and we opt for them

  1. Btw, not directly related to spelling, but somewhat related to vocabulary:
    the word “preponed” used extensively in India as the opposite of “postponed”, is considered to be incorrect usage. Apparently it almost made it the Oxford dictionary this year (correct me if am wrong). Can anyone explain exactly why the word “preponed” is frowned upon, and has anyone ever come across its usage in Uk or US?

    • I’ve not heard the word “preponed” in the US or UK, but I have heard about it elsewhere (possibly from the language expert among the Hannibal Blog’s readers?)

      That said, I love it. And I am known to be a pedant.

      I, for instance, use the word “underwhelmed”, which is probably also not allowed, but it expresses a lot.

      On the flip side, the word “nocent” is an actual word, and nobody knows what it means. Which is odd, since it is (obviously?) just the opposite of its negation, “innocent”.

      Funny business, words.

    • Sorry. Just being my usual metal tiger self without regard to the western Libra.

      Here are the definitions (and your choices) since you did call yourself a pedant.

      1. a person who makes an excessive or inappropriate display of learning.
      2. a person who overemphasizes rules or minor details.
      3. a person who adheres rigidly to book knowledge without regard to common sense.
      4. Obsolete. a schoolmaster.
      5. a person on the top of well…his game.

      note: numbers 1-4 taken from the Random House Dictionary.

    • Oh boy, you’re putting me on the spot here.
      Number 1: Occasionally
      Number 2: Only with respect to language, otherwise direct opposite. (Thus giving language a special position)
      Number 3: No
      Number 4: Obsolete, possibly; but not a schoolmaster.
      Number 5: Occasionally, ahem, on top but open to being elsewhere.

    • Maybe we never hear prepone because it so rarely happens – like time travel. When is the last time you attended an event before it was scheduled? Or is prepone a word we don’t use in polite company – like the event of missing a party because you were invited after it happened? Example: “The party was preponed because of me.”

      Another thought. I recently overheard a woman speaking to someone. She started chatting and then said, “oh, I owe you an e-mail!” and walked off. Did the conversation get preponed by e-mail? The verbal conversation could only be started by an email sent in advance (but it had, in fact, already started).

      What about copone or just simply, pone? That is, announcing an event during completion. Ipso facto. Example: “I love you. I want to have your baby!” The marriage was poned while the bride was […].

    • In India “prepon”ings happen a lot, especially during exams… the hapless student is always worried about his/her exams getting “preponed”.
      Or the advertising campaign end date is “preponed” one week and postponed another. Election dates undergo routine ‘poning’ one way or the other.

  2. I like the sound of “the bride and groom poned”.

    I preponed the delivery of the first draft of my book, and I am now on course to pone the delivery of the second draft. Somehow I am guessing that my publisher will postpone publication. Lots to poneder.

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