I recently submitted my work to a publisher in London (Pushkin Press – you can read about the Open Call for Submissions here). After hitting send and feeling really good about myself, I went to bed. The next morning, I woke up with a start and rushed to my computer.
I had to quickly double-check if I had used the right spelling for story – or storey. I’m in need of an international spellcheck! I thought you might too, so here’s the first bit of word clarification.
Why need an International Spellcheck? As a writer, it’s important to be aware of the different spellings and meanings of common English words around the world.
King’s English and American Standard are not the same.
If you want to have your writing considered by an English-language publishing house that is outside your native country, you need to know about certain linguistic and cultural differences.
Cultural Differences – from a single word?
Take the Fanny Pack, an American purse (an 80’s variation of the buffalo pouch) that has spread worldwide. You wear it around the waist like a belt. Originally, the fanny pack was meant to be worn with the pouch facing backward, but most people who use a fanny pack wear them towards the front.
In America, a fanny is a sort of cute word for bottom. Not in the U.K. An Englishman would never utter such a word in polite conversation. It’s very rude slang for vagina. So it shouldn’t be too much a surprise that most English people do not use the term Fanny Pack because it’s insanely rude.
While you might not personally wear one of these pouches, you might write a character who does. It’s important to know, for contextual purposes, where that character is from and where they are wearing this thing. Here are some international variations for naming a fanny pack (in alphabetical order):
- Belly Bag
- Belt Bag (Philippines)
- Buffalo Bag
- Bum Bag (South America, New Zealand)
- Gee Bag (Ireland)
- Hip Pack (U.K.)
- Hip Sack
- Waist Bag or Waist Pack
- Waist Wallet (Canadia)
A story is what we write and read or orally tell. A story can be fictional or a true account. If I write many stories, that is the only spelling we would use – across the world.
But what if I’m talking about the floor of a building? That’s where things get a little tricky.
Story or Storey
Is storey a word? You bet it is. Any British colony uses this spelling for the floor of a building.
In the United States, storey is a misspelling. Story is the only spelling used (in America) whether it’s an architect’s term or a writer’s term.
Storeyed looks to the American eye like a nightmare. As an American, my brain automatically divides the word this way:
Storeyed is used to describe a 3-storeyed (for me, a 3-storied) building, not a stor-eyed thing, whatever a stor might be. This could be eye storage, or perhaps “stor” is a definer for some kind of eye condition. She isn’t walleyed; she’s storeyed. Oh no!
Storeys vs. Stories
A U.K. floor of a building is a storey. More than one storey would be stories or storeys – either way is accepted, even on the island.
In the U.S., we only have stories.
Do you have a favorite – or favourite – spelling/definition point of confusion? Write below, let me know – or, as ever, just send me an email.
Keep creating, no matter what.