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Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Is it honor or honour? No clearly established Canadian standard according to one Canadian government source.

University of Western Ontario Convocation Diplomas Honors

". . . he’s here (at Western) to consider new ideas and points of view. He might learn something in the process."
— Arzie Chant

Arzie Chant took a solid, unassailable position in a letter to the editor of the Gazette, Western University's student newspaper. Perhaps Chant should re-read what he wrote.

Recently Chant, a member of the school's senate, questioned the use of the word honors rather than honours, with a 'u', on diplomas and certificates awarded by the university. The staff senator told the local paper: "It struck me as embarrassingly un-Canadian to spell honours without a 'u'."   

This isn't the first time someone has raised this issue. The last time it was debated was 22 years ago. At that time, the university made it clear that it had been consistent in its use of the spelling "honor" rather than "honour" on diploma parchments since its founding in 1878. 

If you are surprised, don't be. My grandparents, born in the 1870s, were taught from Canadian textbooks that used both spelling, sometime in the same book. Honor was not un-Canadian at that time. Then, around 1890, all began to change. No less a source than the Government of Canada itself states Canadians have Sir John A. Macdonald, born in Glasgow, Scotland, to thank for the confusion.

Our first prime minister felt strongly that all parts of the British Empire should hold to the system used in England. And he ordered that “the English practice be uniformly followed” in all government documents. Thus, British spelling was upheld as the standard in Canada.

Ideology proved a poor motivator and although governments in Canada fell into step, a lot of folk didn't. It took Canadian newspapers about a full century before the papers embraced the claimed Canadian spelling.

The London Free Press Style Guide June 1. 1986 honor
In June, 1986, The London Free Press style guide still accepted only one spelling, honor, no 'u', as correct. And color was the same. the LFP is not un-Canadian.

As the university senate pointed out 22 years ago, Brits prefer honour, Yanks write honor and Canadians, for the most part, are free to use whichever spelling they prefer. But soon, not at Western.

Arzie Chant claimed it was the "somewhat paternalistic approach of senior administrations" that allowed the continued use of honor without the 'u'. Really? When it comes to paternalistic, Arzie Chant appears to be the culprit and not the university. If he is not careful, his un-Canadian charge may stick to him as well.

To see what Western's former position was on this matter, please read the info posted below. It was taken from a university web page that may soon be taken down. 

University of Western Ontario Convocation
After posting this blog, I got a response from one reader questioning the statement: ". . . actual usage in Canada varies." They went on to say, " I disagree. I've never seen the 'or' version used in Canada, unless by mistake. I wonder where that author got that strange idea."

I know the answer: Fowler. But, I know another source as well: the Canadian government. I found this days after my original post on a page, dedicated to The Canadian Style. It claims: " . . . as a result of our historical links with Britain and our proximity to the United States, Canadian spelling has tended to waver between the forms used in these two countries, so that, to this day, there is no clearly established Canadian standard."

If you feel like reading anymore on this topic, here is suggestion: Testing Canada's 'honour'.