British and US spelling rant/Britische und amerikanische Rechtschreibung

This rant developed out of my reply to a comment.

There are some spelling differences between BE and AE. This is not a secret, and I would think that every person educated enough to be using a bilingual law dictionary knows what they are or can check up somewhere else.

Nevertheless, I have seen a number of bilingual law dictionaries that give both spellings, even though space for legal content is limited. (I’m limiting this to DE>EN dictionaries, but the problem arises in the other direction too). For instance, in the latest Romain DE>EN, I find:

Entziehung einer Lizenz: revocation of a US license/GB licence

The old Romain just had revocation of a licence.

In Romain, the same abbreviations are used for spelling and law. Thus:

Gesellschaftssatzung f US (corporate) charter/GB memorandum and articles of association

The small dictionary by Karin Linhart uses AE and BE for spelling and US and Br for law.

zu Geld machen: to realize (AE), to realise (BE)

Nachlassverwalter bei gesetzlicher Erbfolge: ErbR administrator (US)

This is odd, because this is the UK term too (of course, one can’t always generalize for the whole of the UK or the US, but that is a separate question)

Even odder:

Tagebuch: diary (BE)

There may be some confusion with Kalender here.

Kalender: m calendar, diary; Terminkalender diary (BE), in den Kalender eintragen to diarize (AE), to diarise (BE), to calendar.

But as far as I am concerned the AE/BE spelling distinctions could be thrown out. Of course, this would leave situations where a purely US term, for instance ‘Your Honor’ (used in only one court in England and Wales – most common is ‘My Lord’) might be spelt in the US way and the rest in the British way, depending on the editor’s decision. This is illogical, but many things are illogical in dictionaries – complete consistency is not achievable because language and law are complex.

Similarly, the Langenscheidt Alpmann Fachwörterbuch Recht gives both spellings and uses AE and BE for both spelling and law:

Straftat f (CrLaw) criminal act; criminal offence (AE offense); crime

Erblasser m (BE) deceased; (AE) decedent; testator

The spelling differences are not given in Cornelson’s Wörterbuch Recht, only the law differences.

Dietl has:

Straftat criminal offence (offense); penal act (Verbrechen, Vergehen)

This at least doesn’t waste space telling us which spelling is which.

Lundmark’s Talking Law Dictionary has:

Lizenz: licence (-se)

This is also an improvement from the point of view of space.

Now two particular points that annoy me: ise/ize and judgment/judgement

The fact is that the –ize ending is quite common in BE, though not as common as –ise. I’ve mentioned this before, and here is some evidence.

I therefore wish dictionaries, and the EU English style guide, would not prescribe what is right and wrong here in BE. Above all, as said before, I think nearly all Germans believe that –ize is wrong in BE. Possibly it’s easier to remember: US is A, UK is B. If people think they can make such black-and-white distinctions between the USA and UK, they are much mistaken.

Pam Peters, in The Cambridge Guide to English Usage, prefers –ize (she’s Australian). She quotes OUP, which of course always uses –ize, and then says that contemporary British writers prefer –ise – but the gap is not very wide, see the British National Corpus:

realise 3898, realize 2234
recognise 3641, recognize 2104

There is an even greater preference for –ise in Australian spelling, possibly reinforced by the Australian government. And there are words that have to be written –ise anyway (advertise, advise, supervise, surprise and many more). But US dictionaries are allowing advertize, comprize and other forms, according to Peters.

Equally annoying is the belief of German bilingual law dictionaries that judgment is the AE spelling and judgement the BE spelling. In fact, judgement is commonly used in general BE texts, but UK lawyers tend to write judgment. I’ve been here before too

And even Garner makes the point (thanks, Tom!):

Judgment is the preferred form in AmE and seems to be preferred in British legal texts, even as far back as the 19th century. Judgement is prevalent in British nonlegal texts, and was thought by Fowler to be the better form. Glanville Williams states that, in BrE, ‘judgement should really be the preferred spelling.’

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