British or American spellings?

City Talk | Michael Chugani 5 Nov 2015

Do Hong Kong people prefer American English or British English? I don't know for sure. People in Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and the mainland seem to prefer American English. Some years ago, I saw an advertisement in an English- language Taiwanese newspaper looking for English teachers with an American accent. People in former British colonies, such as Singapore, Malaysia, India, Australia, and New Zealand continue to use British spellings. Hong Kong was a British colony but is now a part of China. Should it continue to use British English or should it drift (move slowly) towards American English? Readers have, from time to time, asked me why I use American spelling as the default (normal, preferred, automatic) spelling and put the British spelling in brackets.

When I first started this column in Headline Daily, I used British spelling because schools in Hong Kong also use British spelling. When The Standard, which belongs to the same media group as Headline Daily, began using my columns, I switched (changed) to American spelling as the default because The Standard uses American spelling. Some British readers of The Standard e-mailed me to say I should stick to (continue with) British spelling for historical reasons. But is drifting towards American English whitewashing (covering up, disguising) our colonial past? Is it the same as putting a cover over the British insignia (symbol, sign, emblem) on colonial-era post boxes as the government has decided to do? Different people will have different opinions on that.

The fact, however, is that American culture is influencing much of the world because of Hollywood movies, Disneyland, music, and TV shows. American spelling has gained a foothold in many places. To gain a foothold means to have a strong first position from where you can make further progress. For example, Putonghua has gained a foothold in Hong Kong. I do not mind using either British or American spelling in my columns. One choice is to switch to British spelling as the default and put American spelling in brackets. What do you think?

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