Each week here at the Australian Writers’ Centre, we dissect and discuss, contort and retort, ask and gasp at the English language and all its rules, regulations and ridiculousness. It’s a celebration of language, masquerading as a passive-aggressive whinge about words and weirdness. This week it's the age-old issue of aging and ageing!
Q: Hi AWC, I was reading through recent census data the other night.
Q: I was having trouble sleeping. Anyway, do you know what became very clear as I read through it?
A: That there’s very little plot and character development?
Q: No, it’s that we are an ageing population. Wait, or are we an aging population? Yes. No, wait, ageing? Hmm. Help.
A: Sorry, we nodded off there. Did you have a question?
Q: Yes please. Should I write it “aging” or “ageing”?
A: Ah, good question, and we’re going to need a world map.
Q: I have one right here.
A: Whoa, where did that come fr– never mind. Okay, so see North America up here?
Q: Yes, it’s the part above South America.
A: Very good. Well, USA and Canada like to spell it “aging”. No E.
Q: That kind of makes sense.
A: You’re right. After all, we write “caging” and “staging” and “waging” and “raging” all follow the same ‘drop the E’ rule. In fact, US English usually does a better job at keeping things simple.
Q: So I take it that Britain and its merry band of Commonwealth grammar athletes prefer to give out gold medals to “ageing” instead?
A: Yes, they do. But thanks to America’s huge influence on the world these days, especially via the internet, “aging” has also taken hold in countries like England, Australia, New Zealand etc. For now however, “ageing” remains slightly more favoured.
Q: So for an Australian audience, you’d suggest going with “ageing”?
A: We would. But “aging” isn’t incorrect (Macquarie Dictionary lists both) – so if you want to use that, just be consistent.
Q: And for Americans, you must use “aging”?
A: That’s right. They’re far less Hugh-Grant-in-Four-Weddings-
Q: Did we really need this map to explain all that?
A: Probably not.
Q: I have another question about ageing. Why is eating aged beef considered very good, but if I eat aged chicken I will get salmonella and die?
A: Let’s discuss that another time. Anyway, it’s time to set the picture for this week…
Q: Two people walking on a beach? Really? I thought the beef and chicken thing could have generated a better image.
A: Don’t you like it? It’s two people “ageing gracefully”…
Q: I feel like I’m in an insurance ad…
If you have a grammar gripe or punctuation puzzle that you’d like our Q&A to explore, email it to us today!