What language do you speak and write? I was raised in Illinois in the U.S., so I write in the English language. However, some of my books are set in the countries of the British Commonwealth of Nations, where they also speak and write English. But the British spell certain words differently than we do in America. For instance, here in the US, we spell the word “color” without the “u” used in the Commonwealth countries, where it is spelled “colour.”
I’ve always been a pretty competent speller, but I often wonder what I should do about the differently spelled words. After all, my books are for children, who are still learning their language. When the books are set in the Bahamas, should I spell color, colour? That is I where I assume the greatest market for my books will be. Or should I write in my native English and assume the readers will correct the spelling to their version of the language?
For now, I write in American English and ask the readers to substitute their preferred spellings. We will see what happens in the future.
There is another issue with British spelling which has to do with pronunciation. For example, Curtis Curly-tail Lizard, my inspiration for the Curtis Curly-tail Adventure Series, lives on Warderick Wells Cay. How would you say “cay?” Does it rhyme with “day?” No, it is actually pronounced “key.” In the US, we would also spell it “key,” as in the Florida Keys. Some experts say they are just different spellings of the same word, while others suggest they have different linguistic roots, despite meaning the same thing: small sand island.
Languages are evolving things and, perhaps, the Englishes spoken in Great Britain and the US are growing away from each other. “In America, they haven’t used it for years!” says Professor Henry Higgins says in the musical “My Fair Lady” in the song “Why Can’t the English Teach Their Children How to Speak?”
It is my hope that in the Commonwealth countries, it is not too difficult to translate the US English I write with into the English that they understand!
Note: I’m happy to announce that the fourth book, Curtis Curly-tail is Blown Away!, in the Curtis Curly-tail series, is now for sale at Amazon.com. It is an adventure tale for ages 8+. The gorgeous illustrations are by Monique Carroll. Curtis Curly-tail wants to help his friends survive a hurricane. But Curtis is blown away! What happens to the iguanas on Beach Cay? (Pronounced “key,” of course!) Will Curtis be blown back home to Warderick Wells?
Pick up a copy today for your child who loves adventures–and you’ll love the environmental science woven into the story!