Each week, we chat about the quirks & anomalies of the English language. Although this week it’s more analogy than anomaly…
Q: Hi AWC, what time is it?
A: It’s GRAMMAR TIME!
Q: Ah, okay. NO. That’s very cute, but I actually want to know what the actual time is.
A: There’s a clock over on the wall.
Q: Yeah, but it’s got hands and I can only read digital time off a smartphone.
A: We heard they could tell the time. Very smart, those phones.
Q: Someone said you can even make calls on them, but I don’t think I have that app. Anyway, my question is about whether I should use “analogue” or “analog” to describe that clock over there with all the hands and numbers in a crazy circle.
A: Ah yeah, this one is interesting.
Q: I’ll be the judge of that.
A: So the word “analogue” has a few siblings – “dialogue” and “catalogue” to name a few.
Q: And “monologue”, “epilogue” and “prologue” to name a few more.
A: Yep. They derive from that same “-logue” form used to refer to different kinds of discourse, spoken or written. That came from French, and in turn from the Greek “-logos”.
Q: Okay, with you so far.
A: But the Americans have never been fans of the French detour that many words seemed to take on their way to English, so opted to drop the “ue” and keep it to a simpler “-log” ending. So where Britain and others like Australia and New Zealand would write, for example, “travelogue”, America would go with “travelog”.
Q: I think I stayed in a travelogue once.
A: You’re probably thinking of a Travelodge.
Q: No, it was definitely a travelogue – very cramped and maps everywhere.
A: Um, okay.
Q: So anyway, you’re saying that dropping the “ue” is all the vogue in the US. Or, should I say “all the vog” – haha.
A: That’s right. But let’s look specifically at “analogue/analog”.
Q: Are you about to go back on everything you’ve just said?
A: Kind of.
Q: I hate this language.
A: You see “analogue/analog” has two very clear forms – the first is the adjective form that most people are familiar with – which we use to describe things like a non-digital clock or that signal your TV used to receive.
Q: I miss that test pattern…
A: And then we have the noun form – meaning “a person or thing seen as comparable to another” – it’s where we get analogies from.
Q: Whoa. I never realised an analogy came from “analogue”. I feel suddenly enlightened, like someone watching the end of The Sixth Sense.
A: Nice analogy. So for both definitions, Britain uses “analogue” and US tends to use “analog” (they do however recognise -ogue for some words too). However Australia, according to our Macquarie Dictionary, uses “analog” for adjectives and “analogue” for the noun.
Q: So the clock and TV signal would be “analog” here?
A: Yes. And “analogue” for the noun form. Another one to remember is “dialogue” for speech etc, whereas “dialog” is used in computing – such as a “dialog box” appearing on your screen etc.
Q: So to recap, it should be an “analog clock” and an “analogue comparison” – but in Britain just use “analogue” for everything and in the US use “analog” for everything.
A: Yes, and of course, even in Australia don’t forget the usual disclaimer.
Q: If pain persists, see your doctor?
A: No, if you’re writing for a company or publication, you’ll want to check their style guide. (Fairfax, for example follows Macquarie Dictionary’s convention, noting “analog” for computers.)
Q: Okay, thanks for that. Now, the little hand is almost on the 9 – so it’s time to log out and have some lunch…
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