Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The English serve their omelets with an extra dash of T and E

The English serve their omelets with an extra dash of T and E - the letter T and E that is. Just this morning, my co-worker called me and said "Lila, don't think I'm stupid, but how do you spell 'omelette?' I am looking at this menu, and I think it is spelled wrong." Which started a cube-wide debate on the proper spelling of the word (as publicists, sometimes it is imperative that we answer random questions before we can go on with our day, such as Can you eat only pizza for seven days?...What was the best line on last night's Jersey Shore?...Where's Johnny?... Is it a man or a woman?... or How many coats a person wear at once?).

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, "beaten eggs cooked without stirring until set and served folded in half" are defined as an O-M-E-L-E-T. WHAT? Nooo, that looks wrong. Omelette is spelled with two Ts and an E, right?

Wrong. If you enter O-M-E-L-E-T-T-E into the good ol' Merriam-Webster, it automatically redirects you to omelet. Need more proof? When typed into a BlackBerry, spell check calls out omelette as incorrect. Even spell checking this post, every omelette is highlighted as misspelled.

Ok, so where did we go wrong? The word omelet comes from the latin word lamina which means "a thin plate," which the fancy Romans decided to beef up into lamella, which means "a small thin metal plate." Then, the French decided it needed to be fancier, and created la lemelle, which translates into "the blade of a sword or knife." Somehow, a word referring to a knife transformed within the French language to l'alemelle, then alumelle and then alemette, which means "beaten eggs fried until set without stirring." Sometime around the 17th century the British borrowed the term, translating it as omelette. This was well before the American trend to make everything GIANT and flashy and flossy. So when they got hold of omelette, they downsized, dropped the T and E and turned it into omelet.
If you didn't know this, don't feel bad, you're not the only one...

No worries IHOP, I still love you...

Turns out there are a variety of everyday words in the English language where the British, Canadian and American spelling differ. Linguistic Issues specialist Karen Bond has created a handy-dandy chart of them, just in case you ever need to go on a spelling bee road tour of the US, GB and Canada. Everyone knows color/colour and favor/favour, or that we canceled out the second L in cancelled, but did you know that in Britain, tire is spelled tyre? Or that they put a Y in pyjamas?

Now you know.

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