Grammatical Ingenuity or the Writer’s Curse?


Ever look at two words that are inexplicably indifferent, and yet perplex you to an irritable state? If yes, then be grateful for the trouble caused by something so pointless. Flourish in the structure of Strunk and White’s Elements of Style, or the punctuation-driven humour in Truss’ Eats, Shoots & Leaves. Both praise the grammarian inside the select few, and the wondrous life opened up to syntactical obsession.

Take for instance the conundrum between center and centre. There truly is no difference in the meaning between the two words. They are spelled with the same letters, take up the same syllables, and are spoken no differently. Yet, the reality of having the two variants exemplifies the intriguing complexities of language.

To clarify, centre—in Canadian English—is the noun, and center is a verb. Truthfully, to a normal individual there is no distinct purpose to acknowledging the difference. Even if one might need to say that “the water cooler must be centered in the Hospital Centre.” All that comes is a fun run of the mouth.

So then, what’s the point? Well, the trouble caused by such indifference is the tell-tale sign of a great grammatical enthusiast. Or simply, OCD in the making. Regardless, great writers acknowledge the gift and profusely obsess over whether it’s center or centre, and whether or not the comma should come before and. Like the duality of words, embrace the ability to be just as inexplicably indifferent.