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 – 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?
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!
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.
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!