Q&A: Mould vs mold

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 we’re breaking the mouldy mold…

Q: Hi AWC – I’m getting a new bathroom put in at the moment because of mould.

A: Oh no – what kind?

Q: Tiles, taps, a bath, shower, mirror – the usual. Oh, and a toilet too.

A: We meant what kind of mould.

Q: Oh. The black kind that kills you eventually.

A: Ah, okay. Fair enough.

Q: But I have a question. You see, I asked for a bathtub like the ones they have on those renovation shows.

A: So you mean one that’s paid for by sponsors and installed by unpaid tradies while racing the clock?

Q: Um, no, I meant freestanding.

A: Ah yes, of course. Do go on.

Q: Anyway, I was emailing my friend, asking whether a special “mold” was used to make my particular bathtub. And you’ll never guess what they replied with.

A: Ummm… did they reply with an email also?

Q: Well, yes. I meant– never mind. They replied that it wasn’t spelt “mold”. I always thought the two meanings had two different spellings, but now I’m confused.

A: You’re right that there are two main meanings. A form or shape (which is also seen as a verb – to shape or form something) and the name for that hard to remove fungi.

Q: Randall.

A: Sorry?

Q: Randall – he was the hard to remove fun guy at my last job. He was always pranking the boss, but she couldn’t fire him.

A: So he’s still there?

Q: No, he finally got caught stealing stationary supplies.

A: Don’t you mean stationery with an E?

Q: Nope, he was caught stealing the stationary bikes from the office gym.

A: Um. Shall we continue?

Q: Yes. So, multiple meanings – but which one is spelt “mould”?

A: All of them. In Australia, Britain, New Zealand and mostly Canada – EVERYTHING – be it a verb, a noun, fungi or something you make bathtubs out of – is spelt “mould”.

Q: Really? Every meaning?

A: Yes.

Q: So does that mean “mold” is for everything in America?

A: Correct. Just like “color”, they dropped the “u” and everything in the US became “mold”.

Q: I bet they used “mould” killer!

A: Hilarious.

Q: Thanks. So, the same goes for “mouldy” and “moulding” etc?

A: Yep. In America, their bread goes moldy and they use molding clay.

Q: They use molding clay instead of bread??

A: No, we meant– oh never mind.

Q: And you said Canada “mostly” uses the British option?

A: Well, they’re right over the border, so they’ve kind of ended up with a mix of the two.

Q: But here in Australia, go with “mould” for anything in that mould?

A: Yes. Some may say that the “Americanization” (with a Z!) of the planet is spreading like a “mold” to words like this. But for now, it’s still safe to mould and shape your sentences with “mould” for everything. Be consistent!

Q: So in America, they talk about leaders in the mold of Obama and here we speak of leaders in the mould of Kevin Rudd.

A: The mould of Kevin Rudd has a nice ring to it.

Q: Well at least I know I’m dealing with the same “mould” in my new bathroom now.

A: Indeed.

Q: I must get in touch with Randall – he was such a fun guy.

A: What’s he doing now?

Q: Last I heard he’d gone into business with another old workplace prankster, fun Gus.

A: Joke shop?

Q: No actually. They sell mushrooms. And stationary bikes.

If you have a grammar gripe or punctuation puzzle that you’d like our Q&A to explore, email it to us today!

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