Q&A: Collectable OR Collectible?

Each week, we chat about the quirks & anomalies of the English language. And this week’s one could become quite the collectable item…

Q: Hello AWC, I was watching that new show Storage Antique Pawn Shop Roadshow Wars last night.
A: That’s not a show.

Q: Well, something like that. Anyway, they were talking about collectable antique hats, and it got me wondering something.
A: Why people collect antique hats?

Q: No, not that. But just how IS the word ‘collectable’ spelt? Is it like that or is it ‘collectible’? I think I’ve been alternating all my life. Help!
A: Okay, keep your antique hat on. If you’re in this part of the world, the Macquarie Dictionary directs you to the “-able” spelling, but also mentions that “-ible” is a thing. Same in Britain.

Q: And America?
A: They naturally do things the other way – preferring “-ible” and not really acknowledging the other form.

Q: So, my friend Jerome says that he–
A: You don’t have a friend named Jerome.

Q: I could have if I wanted.
A: But you don’t.

Q: Okay, his name is Alan. Anyway, he says that he likes to use both – the “-able” version for the adjective (A = adjective) and the “-ible” version for the noun. Any thoughts?
A: Yes, we’ve seen people make the distinction, so it would be a shop filled with “collectable collectibles” – however, there is no rule for this. That’s just a personal thing.

Q: Um, so, it’s just one spelling?
A: Yep. Just like choosing apples coated in superglue – pick one and stick to it.

Q: So, why IS one “-able” and one “-ible”??
A: It’s all about the suffix – non-Latin words have -able but Latin words can be either -able or -ible depending on the root word. And subsequently some words like this one become interchangeable. Note that it follows through to “collectability” and “collectibility” also.

Q: Okay, so it CAN be both, but in Australia – if you’re able, go with “-able”?
A: Sounds good to us. In fact, many people choose to go with “collectable” because they adhere to the rule of using whichever term appears first in the Macquarie.

Q: Okay. Now I’m going to get back to bidding online for this collectable toothbrush holder from 1899.
A: Wow, over a hundred years old!

Q: Oh no, that’s bids starting from $1899.
A: Hmmm…

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