Q&A: Licorice vs liquorice? Barbecue vs barbeque? Cheque vs check?

Each week, we chat about the quirks & anomalies of the English language. And sometimes that’s simply a chat about how we spell things in different parts of the world…

Q: Hello AWC, can you clear something up for me?
A: That cream you got from the doctor should do that.
Q: Haha, no I meant about the spelling of a couple of words.
A: Okay, what have you got?
Q: Well, first is “cheque” – why do Americans spell it “check”?
A: Why not? They’ve been tinkering with the English language for centuries now, and this is one of their lesser crimes.
Q: Yes, but why?
A: Noah Webster hated the British. He wanted to ignore a lot of the fussy French influences that had crept into words and simplified things back to a largely more phonetic sound. The Simplified Spelling movement of the early 20th century continued to try and distance itself from established spellings – some caught on, some didn’t.
Q: Okay, so what about taking a “rain check”? How do WE spell that?
A: Good question. Our “cheque” spelling is reserved just for the bank-issued pieces of paper, so we would write “rain check” just like the Americans.
Q: Okay, next one, what about the word licorice? Or is it liquorice?
A: Ah, well, this time the US recruited its neighbour to the north, and together both Canada and the US staunchly vote in favour of spelling it “licorice”.
Q: They really don’t like Qs do they? I ought to be afraid they wouldn’t let me into the country…
A: You’ll be fine. Just be sure to land in Albuquerque.
Q: Nice. So how do the Brits spell “licorice”?
A: In UK and Ireland, they’re into “liquorice” – and tend to use this spelling exclusively.
Q: What about Australia and NZ?
A: Well we’re quite literally a bunch of liquorice allsorts – using a combination of both spellings when it suits us. (The result of having ties with both the US and UK.) For the record, the Macquarie Dictionary – itself no stranger to a good Q – lists an entry for both, although surprisingly it does put the biggest definition under “licorice”. Just be consistent with which spelling you use. You’re likely to see both.
Q: Okay, finally, is it “barbecue”, “barbeque” or just BBQ?
A: This one is a little easier. “Barbecue” is the preferred spelling – originating from “barbacoa” or “barabicu” which date back to the New World arrivals of the 16th century.
Q: So why do I see businesses and other signage with “barbeque” on them?
A: Australia has dubiously embraced the alternative spelling – and it’s clear it came from a corruption from the abbreviated BBQ or bar-b-q alternatives. No one else seems to spell it “barbeque” anywhere else in the world (except perhaps New Zealand).
Q: Okay, so to be safe, use the “barbecue” spelling?
A: Yep, that sounds sensible. And again, the Macquarie has listed both words, but places the definition detail with the non-Q version.
Q: All this talk has made me hungry. I’m going to barbecue some liquorice…
A: Umm, we’ll take a rain check on that one…

Browse posts by category
Browse posts by category

Courses starting soon

About us

The Australian Writers’ Centre offers courses in creative writing, copywriting, freelance writing, business writing and much more. Our practical and industry-proven courses will help you gain confidence and meet your goals faster!

Contact us

Phone: (02) 9929 0088 Email: [email protected] Head office: Suite 3, 55 Lavender Street, Milsons Point NSW 2061

SALE ON NOW: Up to 40% off VIEW COURSES

Back to top ↑
×

Nice one! You've added this to your cart