Math vs. Maths

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174 comments on this post.
  1. Charlie N.:

    I never heard “Maths” until TWD’s recent column. Garrison Keillor must have been joking! If we have “Do the maths,” then why not “Take a baths?”

  2. Daniel:

    Currently in my early 20s, I don’t really notice whether people use math or maths. After reading this, I will probably start to, especially now that I am doing it as part of my undergrad.

    In primary and secondary school, however, it was always maths. I remember only one person who said math – a friend, probably trying to sound more enlightened (it worked)

    I agree that it is a locale thing. I’m in New Zealand. It was only because of the interweb that I became aware of how common math is – now I see such a mix I don’t notice.

  3. OwenKL:

    This has bugged me for a long time, too. It was always math when I majored in it college. The first time I heard maths was 10 or 20 years ago, and at first only British usages. But today it seems all-pervasive. Whenever I’ve complained about it online, I’ve consistently gotten the response “it may have been singular in your youth old-timer, but it’s plural today because it covers so many sub-divisions.” B*S*! I’m not old enough to remember Pythagoras or Euclid! Since their days, Math has always included arithmetic, geometry, trigonometry and more!

  4. wilson:

    I cannot see what the issue is. I am Scottish but like you Americans I have to submit to the fact that English belongs to to England. The language as spoken and written in the UK is English and must be considered as correct. Therefore since we say MATHS then MATHS is correct.
    The Kiwis and the Ozzies use UK English. If America wants to create a new version of English with diferent spelling and different pronunciation then why not just call it American and be done with it.

  5. John Bull:

    Mathematics is a plural noun. Therefore, the correct shortened form of the word is Maths. By the way, the past participle of get is got.

  6. Fred:

    John Bull – if you actually read the very good article above you would see that it clearly states that “mathematics” is a collective noun.

    “Math” or “maths” is a shortened version of “mathematics”. Here in the UK we always say “maths” and in the US they usually say “math”.

  7. Lee:

    If math is a contraction of mathematics, then why just drop the ematic and not everything after the h ? I mean, really, the only reason that we use it is so we don’t have to use the full word.

  8. Lee:

    Sorry, I meant CONTRACTION. Too much coffee today.

  9. Lee:

    ABBREVIATION, Way too much coffee!

  10. Kay:

    Would it be possible for you to provide references for the following section? I am very interested in locating them.

    ““Math” as a colloquial short form of “mathematics” first appeared in print quite a while ago, in 1847, although that “math” sported a period (“It rained so that we had a math. lesson indoors.”) and was thus clearly a simple informal abbreviation. “Math” unadorned appeared by the 1870s. “Maths” is a bit newer, first appearing in print in 1911.

    Much thanks.

  11. admin:

    Oxford English Dictionary, online edition (www.oed.com)

  12. Math vs. Maths | Cool Facts | Math Fail:

    [...] more at Math vs. Maths « The Word Detective. (No Ratings Yet)  Loading … Cool Facts ← A word problem from a Physics [...]

  13. Thena:

    It’s imperative that more pleope make this exact point.

  14. Dave:

    “Maths” does sound strange to my American ears, and I’m pretty certain that I will never adopt that usage, but I think your reasoning is faulty when you write, “You can tell that from how “mathematics” is treated grammatically: we say “My favorite subject is mathematics,” not “… are mathematics.”
    The subject of the verb in that sentence is “subject,” not “mathematics.” So that proves nothing about how “mathematics” is treated gramatically. More telling is whether you would say, “Mathematics is (or are) my favorite subject.”
    On that score, a recent article in the Economist clearly treats “maths” as singular, in the phrase, “the maths suggests that … .” Sorry, Brits and Anglophiles, but that just sounds weird.

  15. Vee:

    Depends on the english you speak. As a British English speaker I have always used Maths and hearing Math annoys me. American English speakers use Math. The way I see it English is a laguage created by the English and if they say Maths then Maths it is.

  16. Dan:

    I’m British and have always preferred maths over math, and probably due to that exposure I actually think (contrary to a previous poster) ‘math’ sounds less enlightened to my ear (rather like you have a blocked nose XD).
    maths maths maths maths :)

  17. Toby:

    Being English Maths sounds more correct to my ear, but it is well recognised that US english is different (note the lack of a z in recognised for eg) and as such math is more correct in America just as the pronunciation of herb in the US is “‘erb” from the french origin.
    I do find it out when Smericans in the UK say it though, if US-en is separate to GB-en then its like speaking Spanish to an Italian!

  18. Baby Gervase:

    Surely an abbreviation must keep the same plurality as the word it’s abbreviating. Thus, ‘bike’ is the abbreviation for ‘bicycle’ but we use ‘bikes’ for ‘bicycles’. If we accept that ‘mathematics’ is singular because it is a collective noun (as in “Mathematics is my favourite subject”) then the abbreviation should also appear singular: ‘math’.

    However, as an Englishman ‘math’ sounds foreign to my ears and over here we only ever use it in the expression “Do the math” (and we only ever use that ironcially anyway because it sounds so American).

    Live and let live, I say. I love all the different ways the language gets mangled in both countries.

  19. Baby Gervase:

    An afterthought: how do Americans abbreviate the word ‘spectacles’?

    Like ‘mathematics’ it is one of a rather small group of words that look like plurals but are actually in the singular, but I dare say an American would be unlikely to say, “Now, where have I left my spec?”. Which just goes to show the futility of trying to come up with rules for words that are formed in non-standard ways. Vive la difference!

  20. Holly:

    @Baby Gervase:

    Americans do not say “spectacles.” They say “glasses.” And it is always “glasses” and not “glass.”

  21. ZaZa:

    I am South African and we say Maths in English. (A country with 11 official language in which “Maths” is plural is all 11 languages.) I find the American English and British English debate amusing, but even more so is to hear/see a weird word like MATH. To my ears it just sounds wrong and looks like a typo.

  22. Azzaron:

    Its funny how you say that the term “maths” is growing in popularity and that it disturbs you. In Australia the term “math” is growing in popularity and, like you, I am disturbed by it.

    Honestly, does it really matter? O.o

  23. Janisa:

    An intelligent awsenr – no BS – which makes a pleasant change

  24. VortexCortex:

    I use the term “algorithms” instead:
    “Why don’t you perform the algorithms?”

    Alternatively: “Compute it.”
    (Same number of syllables as “Do the maths” with less glyphs)

    I’m a programmer, so please also excuse my evolved usage of punctuation to convey more meaning :-)

  25. Nonie:

    I’m just entertained by the reverse plural “sport” (UK) vs. “sports” (USA).

    So. We Yanks have math and sports; youse guys got maths and sport. Go figure.

    (Actually, I’ve only heard that usage of “sport” for one’s school athletic classes – “I have sport after lunch.” Are adult athletic competitions like footie matches still “sport,” or are they “sports” as in the US?)

    –Nonie

  26. Maths Teacher:

    If you are a ‘math’ teacher, logically you must be a teacher of ‘mathematic’. If you are a ‘maths’ teacher, logically you must be a teacher of ‘mathematics’.Simple really.

  27. Jon:

    You’re applying a rule regarding plurals to a word which is ambiguous at best on its plurality outside of context. When one says “Mathematics is the only truly universal language.”, it is obviously singular, and therefore by your own rule, should be shortened to ‘Math’ the same way we would shorten any other word ending in -s that is singular (say, ‘calculus’ shortened to ‘calc’).

    And yet even here in America, where we are (mostly) so vehemently against the word ‘Maths’, we break our own rule: Ask the majority of non-math(s) majors what their least favorite math(s) classes were, and somewhere on that list you’ll hear them mention ‘Statistics’ – which we commonly shorten to ‘Stats’. I find that interesting.

    I think it simply comes down to common regional usage, and nothing more.

  28. Scott M:

    I am an American living in India. People here say maths and maths does sound funny to my ears.

    My comment is really a different way to look at it. As an expat who has to speak Hindi and English I’ve really come to appreciate that language only has meaning as it is commonly understood. Here in a hospital you’ll be asked “Is it paining?” whereas in America (or in England?) pain is never used this way. I could try to correct every hospital in India or I could realize that here this is the correct “English” way to say it here.

    Learning how to communicate properly to the people you are among is the goal. So go ahead and add the other variation to your English vocal. Adjust your ears (and I will as well) to hear the millions of people who use the one you think sounds funny.

  29. Greg Woods:

    As a Brit, the word ‘math’ is a hideous abomination!
    However, you make an excellent point regarding the Economist quote – it sounds very wrong – but only due to the double ‘s’ involved. Perhaps they should have used the word “calculation”!

  30. Greg Woods:

    Hearing Math annoys me too, but in many cases, ‘American’ spellings are the same as much older English spellings. It is modern British English that changed – at least if Bill Bryson is to be believed

  31. D Nagureo:

    I think that the argument for accuracy of American usage in English is too often based upon what was the earliest usage of a term, for example, that math is possibly correct as it was the earliest contraction of mathematics.

    If we applied this thought process to anything in English that we would see that the entirety of the English language is “incorrect” as most things were at some point replacements for a previously used word or term.

    Therefore the best definition of correct English would necessarily be the current usage in England, whereas the current usage in America (for example) would best be termed correct “American English”, not simply correct English.

    We seem to do this all the time with European languages, however a speaker of Mandarin and a speaker of Cantonese would not argue over what was correct “Chinese”.

  32. Peter:

    That is because Australia is fast becoming the 51st State of the USA

  33. MathsMathMatt:

    Trig in 10th grade? Either you’re young or you should give up the writing gig and get into mathematics some more. Back in my day, 10th grade was when Geometry was standard. You would then take Algrebra II in the 11th grade. Trig wasn’t until 12th grade, which you took alongside Probability and Statistic, both the first semester. Most people then stopped, but Calculus was available before you graduated to those who cared a little more about mathematics. I now nowadays they moved everything down a year or two. I took Trig along with prob/stats in my junior year, and that was only because I tested out of 8th grade math and took Algebra I a year earlier than my school’s traditional format. And I thought I was doing it earlier! *lol*

  34. Darryle Knowles:

    It’s maths not math.

    Reason – we study mathmatics not mathmatic.

    Pure and simple as that.

    Darryle Knowles
    Brisbane, Qld, Australia.

  35. Jason:

    ‘Spectacles’ is plural. You’d say, ‘My spectacles are broken,’ not ‘My spectacles is broken.’

  36. Coren:

    So your argument is that the word ends in an s, therefore its abbreviation should as well? Because that pretty much only works on words which are already plural.

  37. Coren:

    True, but consider this, John – you can have a single statistic, and it is a stat. Multiple ones are statistics – so it’s not the field, per se, which is observing an odd rule so much as it is the field following the word which it is made up of.

    Also, stats is the worst math class I also took.

  38. Angela:

    That simply is it-”maths” is British/Australian/NZ, and “math” is American. As an American living in Europe, I am exposed to a lot of British English spelling-like “tyre” instead of “tire.”

    I wonder as the Canadians speak like Americans, but spell like the Brits, is it “maths” or “math” to them?

  39. Kinell:

    There is English, a standardised and ever evolving language and lexicon. And there is USAmerican English, the bastardized form of English.

    English in India/Pakistan/Bangledesh/Phillipines/Burma/Nigeria/Palestine etc, etc .. falls into the latter catergory.

  40. Kaleb:

    (1) If one comprehends what another means when he/she says either “math” or “maths”, does it really matter?
    (2) Both “math” and “maths” are colloquialisms, which are typically defined regionally, and hence, both are correct based on their region of usage. Additionally, this means that one should never write either in formal writing and should always use “mathematics” instead.

    According to Wolfram MathWorld (among a few other references but they say it more concisely), “The term ‘mathematics’ is often shortened to ‘math’ in informal American speech and ‘maths’ in British English. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term ‘math’ has been in usage in London and the United States since 1890. The first usage of ‘maths’ first occurred as a colloquialism 21 years later.”

  41. Jean:

    You say “if America wants to create” as if we didn’t already do that a long time ago. Different spelling and pronunciation included.

  42. pat:

    Speaking as a Canadian, I’d never encountered “maths” till about a year ago. I was just reading a British written webcomic and wanted to learn the distinction.

    Then again, I live in Alberta. I can’t say how it’s used in Ontario, what with varied dialects and all.

  43. Jon:

    HL MENCKEN – The American Language 1919 .
    American English is a horse of a slightly different colour – or is that color? I don’t see any Aussie language bashing – and I’m am sure you don’t call farms “stations” back in the UK. What’s this nonsense about submitting to British English. While the British were trying to figure out why the Comet airliner had problems with the wings snapping off of the aircraft, Americans coined the term astronaut; no one had to ask permission from a British grammarian to approve usage of the term. That goes for LASER , Microprocessor , transistor , cell phone ….. etc.. etc… etc…

  44. Jon:

    Mathematics is NOT Mathematics are ..
    In usage , it is singular , not plural, therefore you proved the point , that the form MATH is correct.

  45. Jon:

    Rarely used , but they say specs.- Because it is treated as a plural noun.

    If we are creating a rule here , the shortened form of a word must follow the grammar of its parent word , then plural nouns but be shortened with an “s” and singular and collective nouns , are without the “s”. But remember, English has few consistent rules, it is a complicated array of exceptions.

  46. James:

    We don’t say thks, we say thanks, you cant just cut out the middle of the word and say maths, you would say math. If you are keeping the “s” because its in the word mathematics, then that would not work. However, if you are keeping it because there are many different subjects that fall under math, then I would agree, it is maths.

  47. Legion:

    I’m from Ontario. It’s math here. “Maths” drives me crazy when I see it, cause whenever I see it, my brain stops and says “maths” in my head, which just sounds awkward.

    In the battle between American English and British English, I usually side with American. Most of the time it’s more concise and spelled how it sounds, which from a communication standpoint makes it more clear.

    Color vs Colour: I have to type an extra letter and it’s pronounced like Color not Colower.

    Theater vs Theatre: It’s pronounced like theater, not thee-a-tree.

    So, yeah, “America! *Bleep* Yeah!”

  48. Hobsie:

    It’s quite common to abbreviate a word so that it contains the first and last letter plus a combination of the interim letters to ensure it retains the words overall feel. Likewise it is just as common to use part of the word.

    Both seem perfectly valid to me but I much prefer how Maths rolls off the tongue.

  49. Perdurabo:

    …glasses. I’ve never heard anyone say spectacles outside of old movies.

  50. Phil:

    LASER is an acronym and it has always amused me that some have decided to change it to “LAZER”. I’m curious to know what the Z (zed) stands for.
    And only farms which are about the size of the UK are called stations in Australia.

  51. Phil:

    So how do you spell “pour” in Canada?

  52. King:

    If it is ‘Math’ then why don’t the American’s use ‘Physic’ instead of ‘Physics’. American English is just a ruined form of the original language , its from ENGLAND so no one has the authority to change the grammar except for the think-tank’s who are English.

  53. Haley:

    Maths is, of course, what I use. I go with British/New Zealand because I hate everything about the States, they just brainwash people and countries such as Korea and Japan!!! I hate that Black Obama, he drives me crazy. They simplify the English words into their own without some words, like the weird Simplified Chinese. Maths is the right one!!!

  54. Haley:

    Truly Agree!

  55. Alban:

    Did any one else notice: “we say “My favorite subject is mathematics,” not “… are mathematics.”? Sorry but the use of singular here is nothing to do with whether or not Mathematics is singular or plural, “is” refers to “subject”, not “mathematics”. Just a little detail, but ow so important

  56. Richard Anderson:

    This is a really brilliant piece, the information within which I was completely unaware. Being schooled in the UK I became accustomed to ‘maths’ but having read this interesting article can see this to be technically incorrect. However, I’m not so sure I’d get away with using ‘math’ in the UK as this would require continuous explanation!

  57. Dan:

    So I guess in England it’s proper to use ‘s to indicate the plural form of nouns.
    But more importantly your premise is flawed. Neither physics nor mathematics are plural. Have you ever heard “physics are hard” spoke or written by anyone claiming the usage is proper?

  58. Joe:

    Numerical arts? Mathematics is not about numbers and equations. Unfortunately, you still have not the slightest clue as to what mathematics is all about.

  59. Mikeindm:

    But if you use the phrase “you do the math” it makes sense to be ‘math’ not ‘maths’ since you aren’t doing multiple calculations, only one.

  60. Kevin:

    Enough of the English snobbery on the language. Better do your studying before you decry American English as some kind of poor gutter cousin. You see, there is much evidence which any lanuage scholar either side of the pond will confirm, that when the American Colonies broke off from the mother country, it actually retained a more conservative form of English. It was the Brits with their French affectation, who started spelling verbs with -ise instead of -ize; started using autumn instead of fall, decided “forgotten” was a gross Americanization when it was authentic 17th century English. Some words found in Chaucer, are still alive and kickin’ in North American English but no longer in British English. Australia, New Zealand, must understand – we (the US) are like the older sister who left home but can remember things from the family you can’t – because you weren’t born yet.

  61. Hans:

    ‘Word detective’ my backside. So I suppose it’s correct to abbreviate statistics to ‘stat’? You have no idea what you’re talking about.

  62. Drake:

    But “the” does not change to indicate singular or plural. You wash “the” dishes. You can also wash “the” dish.

  63. Drake:

    Trigonometry is a subdivision of Geometry, specifically the geometry of triangles. So yes, in most 10th grade geometry classes, students are taught the basics of trigonometry.

  64. Drake:

    That would be because single-syllable words are not abbreviated verbally. There would be no point.

  65. Drake:

    Your argument makes no sense. We are talking about the abbreviation of “Mathematics” to “Math(s)”. “Physics” is not, nor has, an abbreviation.

  66. Jimmy:

    Mathematics is a plural, because there are several mathematical types, calculus, trig, algebra, etc.

    If you shorten a plural, you are still left with a plural, hence maths is correct.

  67. David:

    Unfortunately, as we are not french, we cannot insist on English being spoken in the manner prescribed by the English. Maths is correct, as this is determined by English speakers. The pattern of specatacles/specs, statistics/stats has been put forward, but this does not help. My statistics are flawed, my spectacles are broken, but my mathematics is flawed or my mathematics are incorrect? Liverpool ia the best football team or Liverpool are the best team… dicuss…

  68. dj:

    I fink your wrong, it’s math.

  69. Ben:

    Your argument is flawed. Chelsea is the best football team.

  70. Paige:

    The British just don’t seem to get basic concepts like collective nouns. Is the abbreviated form of physics actually “physs”? Of course it isn’t. Additionally the dialects evolved separately, and I would like to know which one of their nation’s local dialects is “correct”. I have found they cannot even understand one another. It’s fortunate that American English doesn’t qualify as a separate language, because the world would no longer advertize for TEFL teachers. They would all be asking for TAFL teachers.

  71. Paige:

    “Maths” is just another pompous British word. It certainly does not roll off the tongue to move from alveolar ridge to the teeth with two voiceless consonants. Also Dan, yes, they often do use ‘s to indicate a plural as they can’t understand the difference in usage.

  72. estebanrey:

    The people saying that Mathematics isn’t plural because you prefix it with “is” rather than “are” have a fair point but what about this sentence…

    “2 plus 2 is four, to work that out we used mathematics”

    Perfectly correct yes? But surely if it’s singular you would say “we used a mathematics” wouldn’t you? Like you would say “I used a baseball bat” as opposed to “I used baseball bats”.

  73. Yael:

    But by that logic, ‘trigonometry’ (for example) must be plural as well, because you would say ‘to work that out I used trigonometry’. Right?
    Thing is, in a sentence like this, what you imply is something like ‘I used *the system of* mathematics/trigonometry/etc.’ – hence there’s no need for ‘a’ nor for singular/plural.
    Like was already pointed out, ‘mathematics’ works the same way as ‘physics’ or ‘politics’, as a word in a plural form that can be used as a singular (‘physics is complicated’, ‘politics is a dirty game’). That’s all.
    Anyway, there’s nothing wrong with abbreviating mathematics as ‘maths’, but there’s also nothing wrong about abbreviating it as ‘math’, and like any argument about what are ultimately dialect forms, the whole argument of which is ‘more right’ seems absolutely ridiculous to me.

  74. Scorp:

    If Mathematics is a plural noun, then your grammar is atrocious. “[Plural noun] are…”, “[Singular noun] is…”. Also if Mathematics is plural, than what’s the singular?

  75. himeshi:

    maths is fun but i will find some problems in maths too.but i like maths.

  76. Damien:

    Why would any body listen to somebody that spells “Think” as “Fink”?

    And at my School Math and Maths were seperate classes, Maths was stuff like long division, subtraction etc and our Math classes were Alegebra etc

    I’m not saying either are correct I’m just passing on how my school did things

  77. freestyler:

    It’s a plural noun. Maths is the correct abbreviation. Sorry Americans you have got it wrong. Again. A bit like your pronunciations of all things herbal. Like oregano (not oreg-gano), basil (not bay-sil) and the word herb itself (not erb, it has an ‘h’ at the beginning). Try harder. 2/10.
    PS Garage is another one. It’s garage not gararge. The clue is in the spelling.

  78. CAKarl:

    I wonder what the speakers of Olde English would have to say about Contemporary English?

    Let’s face the truth here; a pure, ‘modern’ language does not exist. Each has been influenced by generations of interaction with other cultures and languages. Let’s not beat each other up over correct and incorrect.

  79. Sarah:

    Not to mention your incorrect usage of ‘your’ instead of ‘you’re’ in a discussion about grammar….

  80. Kate:

    Just came straight form a youtube comments debate on this topic.

    It’s just a matter of what feels right to you and your audience – which is probably going to be based on the version of English you grew up with, and where you and your audience are. Spelling is not about logic – so don’t try about logical about this. Especially arguing about whose right in thier spelling of words like “colour/color” or “pour” and so on – that’s just a pointless exercise.

    I’m Australian, and studied for a year at uni in Vancouver. “Maths” feels smoother and easier to say to me, because I’m used to it – to say “Math” would cause people to stop and get confused. But “Math” feels right to my Canadian friends, so I adopted it while over there, and it probably would be easier to pronounce for those for whom English is a second language (it’s already hard enough to say “th” and “s” seperately for a lot of people, let alone together).

    This article complains that the use of “Maths” in America by Americans is a case of “spreading” “Anglophiliac posturing”. Maybe it’s just that we live in an increasingly globalised world where English is becoming increasingly homogenised across national borders (as I write this my browser keeps trying to “correct” my use of s instead of z in these words, by the way). In my university in Australia we used to get marked down on having American spelling in our essays – a result of using Microsoft-Word’s spell checker (before they got around to having an Australian spell checker). Now my lecturers have given up, and it’s an either-or situation. Don’t complain about what the rest of the world has been grappling with for years. Accept it and move on.

  81. Xavier:

    Math = one equation/question. e.g: I am doing a math question

    The subject Mathematics consisting of more than one equation e.g: i have to do my maths home work or i have maths question.

    You would not say I have a Math degree because that would mean you studied one question you would say you have a Maths degree because you have studied more than one type and more than one equation of Maths

    It is a plural and we mostly use it as a plural. It is not very often you are going to have to do only one thing to do with Maths you will most likely do a sires of things do do with it.

    So it’s Maths

  82. jason:

    some forms of mathematics are difficult?!?!?!

  83. nick:

    you are quick to point out we say ‘erb’, disregarding the H sound. but you people say ‘istorical’, and even go so far as to use the appalling phrase ‘an ‘istorical…’. another example? this is more an issue of dialect, but some of you say ‘edge’ instead of ‘hedge’.

  84. Stephen:

    It’s “mobile phone”, not “cell phone” if we are talking English. “Astronaut” was coined in 1930, over 20 years before the Comet even flew, let alone suffered structural failure (the wings never snapped off). And it’s maths.

  85. Stephen:

    That’s a dropped h which is viewed as incorrect speech in England. “Erb” rather than “herb” just sounds silly, but “an historical” is absolutely correct grammatically.

  86. Stephen:

    Surely “favourite”?

  87. Ali:

    Why should i listen to someone who doesn’t point out grammar mistakes? “you’re”

  88. Kathy:

    Darryle: If you can’t spell mathematics, you don’t get an opinion.

    Here in the USA, it is correct to say “do the math.” Had I said “do the mathematic,”
    I would be incorrect. But math is an accepted short name for mathematics and has been around for hundreds of years. Therefore, Americans say “do the math” or “do the mathematics.”

    In addition, the English language was not invented by one country. When the Germanic tribes invaded England in the 5th century, they brought their language with them. Therefore, English is a combination of other languages and has evolved through the years. Therefore, no one gets to play the “England invented it” card. That’s a moot point anyway. If we moved out of England, but we spoke English, we can choose to modify the language to suit our country’s needs.

    Finally, there are more similarities than differences between British English and American English, but those differences should be respected.

  89. Kathy:

    Sorry about the weird line break behind mathematics. I can’t do anything about that.

  90. Kathy:

    You are incorrect. It is NOT an historical. The rule when using “an” vs. “a” is whether or not the next word begins with a vowel or sounds as if it begins with a vowel.

    An apple, an aardvark, an HONEST man (sounds as if it begins with a vowel).

    You use “a” when the next word begins with a consonant: a history book, a historical occasion. You would never say “an history book.” Now, I admit an historical occasion rolls off the tongue nicely, but that does not make it grammatically correct.

    Check your college grammar book before posting.

  91. Kathy:

    Stephen: If you naturally pronounce historical as istorical, (but you don’t), that would be the only way that “an historical” would be correct.

  92. Kathy:

    Mathematics can be considered a collective noun because in the US, we use that term to refer to all forms of math (Algebra, Calculus).

  93. Kathy:

    You must be from England. Pull out your English book, and you will probably find the answer you prefer. And I can guarantee you that my American English book will have the answer that I prefer.

    There is a difference between British English and American English. Period.

    Respect the differences.

  94. Kathy:

    Well said.

    By the way, it is nice to hear that so many other people care about
    grammar.

    Today, it’s the cool thing to mumble and butcher the English language.

  95. Kathy:

    King:

    You are joining a discussion about grammar but can’t spell correctly?

    The English language is a combination of other languages. England did NOT invent it. I suggest you do a bit of research.

    And since I live in America, I speak American English which evolved from British English which evolved from other languages. Therefore, America does not need England’s permission to change the language.

    By the way, “Mr. Think Tank,” some corrections to your post. It’s (for it is) from England, and Think Tanks (s for plural) not Think Tank’s (no need for apostrophe).

  96. Kathy:

    It is not correct to use apostrophe to indicate a plural. People do that because they do not know better.

  97. Kathy:

    Your logic is not allowing for the use of collective nouns. Mathematics is a collective noun which refers to many types of math. Math is just a short name for mathematics.

  98. Kathy:

    Your logic is flawed because you are forgetting that mathematics AND math are collective nouns. You would say mathematics class or mathematics classes. You would say math question or math questions. The word after math is what changes.

    Frankly, we have a lot of people on here using faulty logic and arguing in a subject in which they are clearly uneducated.

    What is correct in England may not be correct here. America has an accepted set of rules just as England does. To argue that we are wrong is disrespectful.

    I could show you in our college textbooks the proper answer and some of you would STILL argue.

  99. Kathy:

    Man, you Brits think you invented the English language. Well, do some research and you will find out that your British English evolved from other languages.

    Mathematics and math are collective nouns. And there are differences in the way British English and American English treat collective nouns.

  100. Kathy:

    Favourite is British English. Favorite is American English.

    Colour is British English. Color is American English.

    Most languages INCLUDING British English evolved from other languages. It would be pretentious for an American to speak British English unless he/she is living in Great Britain or was raised there.

    It is pompous for the British to say that Americans are incorrectly speaking the English language because it is not British English. Language evolves. Even British English has evolved from its original state.

    In 100 years, British English and America English will have further changes. The language is standardized, but always subject to change with the times.

    Many times, a new word is invented or inserted into the dictionary because so many people get it wrong that it is changed to appease the masses.

  101. Kathy:

    Paige: an apostrophe. Oops

  102. Kathy:

    Math/Mathematics = A subject spanning various types of math (trigonometry, calculus, algebra).

    Math/Mathematics= collective noun

    collective noun
    noun, Grammar .
    a noun, as herd, jury, or clergy, that appears singular in formal shape but denotes a group of persons or objects

  103. Kathy:

    I need to correct myself. While math and mathematics are collective nouns. The way you are using them makes them adjectives.

    However, that does not change the fact that math/mathematics does not mean one question or one equation. Math/mathematics is still collective meaning that the word covers many forms of math: trig, calc, etc.

    You are also incorrect applying plurals. Math does not mean one thing; math means a lot of things. What determines if math means one equation/one question or many equations/many questions is the word that follows math.

    Math question means one question (math is not the question itself but the type of question)

    Math questions (same as above but more than one question)

    The same goes for the equations. Math equation is one equation; math equations is many equations, or you can just say “math.” Can you help me with my math?

    In your sentences, math is the adjective not the noun. So, you apply the plural to the noun that follows (question/equation).

    And you would say mathematics or math degree. That does not mean you have a degree in one equation or question. Because math/mathematics is a subject that covers many forms of math. You are applying the wrong definition to the word itself and incorrectly applying plurals.

  104. MarkB:

    This thread is both amusing and tedious at the same time. I’m reminded of the much used quote about the Bible in English: “If it was good enough for Jesus Christ, it’s good enough for me!” It seems as if some poor Brits think that God Himself gave them their spelling, and any changes are blasphemy. ;-) As was pointed out in a very good Economist article – which made grown Englishmen cry – many of the complaints about ‘Americanisms’ actually have their origin in the UK, including spelling.

    Needless to say – all spelling is arbitrary. Well, I guess I did have to say it, didn’t I?

  105. Tom:

    I first heard somebody use the term ‘maths’ about a year ago. It sounded weird to me. It still does.

    Now I’ve read the terms ‘math’ and ‘maths’ so many times in the comments that they both sound weird to me. I think I’m just going to switch to saying ‘arithmetic’, ‘algebra’, etc.

    Something else I’d like to point out. I think it is interesting that there are only a few mathematics specializations that we abbreviate; e.g. Trigonometry (Trig), Calculus (Calc), and Statistics (Stats). At least in common usage. I have never heard somebody say, “Wait for me. I have to finish my alg homework”, though it may be abbreviated on a course listing in this way.

  106. Martyn:

    What an arrogant and egotistical reply! There isn’t an abbreviated form of the word ‘physics’ – so that is just ridiculous! As for the TEFL/TAFL comment – pathetic arrogance!

    Bottom line is, Math is the usage in North America and Maths is the general usage in the rest of the English speaking world….. One is no more correct than the other!!

  107. Chris:

    Just got to do my Gal The (Galois Theory) that just sounds silly…

    Also if we say ‘specifications’ as ‘specs’ why not ‘mathematics’ as ‘maths’ ?

    Either way it’s up to personal choice no?

  108. Lols:

    Math is American, Maths is sexy.

  109. Lols:

    The Americans say Math because they study just one equation in Maths.

  110. Lols:

    ei: ” You don’t get to have an opinion”. Not “You don’t get an opinonion”

  111. Lols:

    You need to use fullstops in some places.

  112. Lols:

    Damien!

  113. Lols:

    Poureh

  114. Lols:

    That’s ridiculous! Don’t even bring the word Bath into this. Get it off this page! it’s highly unsound for this discussion!

  115. TheFOX:

    Regardless, we shouldn’t go to war over it. The (sometimes) United States won the right to decide our choices in spelling, pronunciation, and grammatical nuances well over two hundred years ago and re-enforced it almost exactly twenty decades ago. Many of the most noticeable differences were deliberate changes made at that time for the express purpose of a distinct separation. I believe that changes have continued to produce a language with concise linguistic meaning(s).

  116. TheFOX:

    In the novels Perry Mason would have proven you didn’t belong in gaol; on television you would have heard “jail”. I’m exhausted from this.

  117. Dorayakii:

    Don’t worry abou it people, it’s just another variety (or “variedy”) of English. It can be quite mutually confusing when you hear new terms from accross the Atlantic for the first time, but English doesn’t belong to anyone, it’s a language.

    I remember the first time I heard the term “visit with” as in “I’m visiting with my grandmother”. My first reaction was “where are you going together?”. I didn’t realise that it just meant that she was visiting her grandmother, not visiting someone or somewhere else *with* her grandmother. But that is the beauty of language diversity, it should open your mind to the way people think and feel.

    Another interesting one in American English is “different than”. As an Englishman, I would always say “That picture is different from that one”. I would always reserve “different than” for when “different” is a comparative adjective rather than a normal adjective. I would use it only for a comparison of the relative level of difference of two objects and a third object, eg. “That yellow circle is more different than that purple triangle from that blue triangle” (because it has two unique differences rather than one). Of course this is a much rarer usage as it is a rarer situation.

    Again, it is just the nature of diversity. Accept it.

  118. Dorayakii:

    So we’ve gathered that “math” sounds weird to the English, and “maths” sounds unusual to the Americans… Is that not just a difference in dialect? Why are people getting so angry and nationalistic about it?

    As an Englishman “pants” for “trousers” and “fanny” for “bum” all sounds very amusing, but then again for my American friend when we say “toilet” instead of “bathroom” (a bathroom being a room with a bath for us) it sounds quite strange too. Is that not just the variety of language? Surely we pronounce words the way we are used to pronouncing them? 

    Even within England my friend from York calls a plaster cast a “pot”, and my Scouser friend says “youse” for a plural “you”.

    An Minnesotan friend of mine once criticised me for rhyming the vowel of “roof” with “tooth” rather than with that of “tough”. I had to explain to him that that’s the way we say it in England, and I think in many parts of the USA that is also the case. There was some misunderstanding as I didn’t get what he was saying sometimes, but so what? That’s the beauty of language.

    There is not such thing as “correct” form. In fact if you went back to 17th century English you would find that all forms of English, including English in England, have strayed from the “original” form. In fact if you think we should all speak “original” English we would all go back to speaking the Anglo-Saxon of Beowulf. The mere thought is ridiculous. 

    We all have neologisms that annoy us. I hate when certain Americans say “if I would have seen him I would have told him”, but that is just a personal preference, and no matter how much it grates, I have no right to dictate to people how they should speak.

    English doesn’t belong only to the English, it belongs to all who speak it. The only things that belong to you are the words that you yourself utter. If you do want to go down that road, then the residents of  Schleswig-Holstein and Angeln would be berating the entire anglophone world for “corrupting” their pure tongue.

    Chill out and accept the diversity which is inherent in language. No one is stopping the English from saying “maths” and nobody is preventing the Americans from saying “math”. Both have logical reasons for their existence, language is not an exact science. 

  119. Dr. Alsop:

    Math vs Maths

    When one thinks of the word Math it is realized that all forms of mathematics included in that set are built form the same set of basic rules. When someone can find another type of Math that is not based on those rules then we will have multiple kinds (not branches of) of Math and can say we have Maths.

    I capitalized Math and Maths here for emphasis. It is probably a fair guess that most of the people arguing this topic are not mathematicians.

    As a side note, my word processor flags Maths as misspelled but does not flag Math.

    English was developed from many Germanic and other languages. To state that English was developed by the English is nonsense. When the language was first blended England did not exist as England.

    Mathematics is singular in that it refers to a single body of knowledge but Math refers to the components of that body of knowledge and is therefore plural. No one would argue the incorrectness of changing deer to deers or geese to geeses.

    Unfortunately, when some less than literate person makes and propagates errors such as these they eventually become part of the changing language. Elementary and secondary teachers are frequently the source of these errors and their propagation. Many times I have had to correct university students that have the habit of saying things like “ I am going to times it” or “ I plused or minused it”. They claim to have been taught this way and I have no reason to doubt that they were. I have personally heard teachers say these things, possibly out of a misguided attempt to make it easier for the student. However, they have not thought this approach through and it brings another level of illiteracy to the culture. Students are then left to sound mathematically illiterate and few people will take them seriously when they use such childish expressions.

    Instead of defending these errors, any intelligent and informed person would wish to correct the error rather than continue to propagate the mishap. The world is full of examples of groups within cultures who just can’t seem to get it right and pass on that ignorance to their progeny and the surrounding population.

    Often, it becomes in vogue to emulate these unfortunate beings as children seek their own unique identity. They do not have the experience to know that this emulation is neither unique nor literate. This is why they must be guided away from these influences and set on the path that will lead to their success rather than hinder opportunities. An example is they way American kids try to be “ghetto” or “gangsta”.

    It is also the case that adults with low self esteem will attach themselves to cute little things such as the European habit of crossing their sevens so they can feel they are more sophisticated than their peers. These fragile egos may be of above average intelligence but not at a level where they can realize the flaw in this line of thought.

  120. Tom:

    It’s maths because it’s more than one number (always) otherwise it’s called a number, saying math makes you sound stupid, you speak English and the English word is maths, bastardize it all you like it’s still English therefor it’s maths, if you want to speak a different language go ahead but you can’t teach granny how to suck eggs. Americans don’t even know how the whole world expresses the date without trying to mess that up as well. I suspect you forgot alot on the boat trip.

  121. Marty:

    Well said Tom!
    I am equally perplexed by the number times I hear young Australians refer to ‘math’, we always followed the British tradition here and used ‘maths’ throughout my childhood but like many other aspects of our culture it’s suffering from the pressure of cultural imperialism. This is heightened through the saturation of multiple sit coms where the catch phrase ‘do the math’ has entered into the lexicon.

  122. Chris:

    Before anyone argues that “maths” is correct because mathematics is plural, one should establish that the “s” is what makes it plural. I personally do not consider the “s” to have any bearing on the singular vs plural nature of the word because not every word that ends in “s” is plural as a result. There is no such word as “mathematic” in common usage, and therefore the “s” at the end of “mathematics” is not an addition to pluralize a singular.

    If there was a word “mathematic” that was shortened to “math”, then it would certainly make sense to shorten “mathematics” to “maths”. But there is no such word in common usage, and the word mathematics, a collective plural for which the “s” has no special meaning”, is shortened to “math”. Using “maths” attributes a role to the “s” that it does not have in the word “mathematics”.

  123. Chris:

    Follow up:

    Americans abbreviate “calculus” as “calc”. Do Brits say “calcs”?

    Above, I referred to “mathematics” as a collective plural, but upon further reflection I wish to retract that. I do not think of “mathematics” as plural at all. Mathematics is A field of study, singular.

  124. Sam:

    The word “are” in this case is referring to “forms”, which is plural.

  125. Rich:

    To American ears “do the maths” sounds exactly like “shear the sheeps”.

  126. YodaE:

    Although the use of math instead of maths is quite rightly regarded as a heinous crime by right minded people, I can’t understand why people talk about mathematics for simple calculations when they really mean arithmetic. If arithmetic is too long for our north american brethren, try “sums”. I say this in the sure knowlege that, if adopted, “sums” will morph into “sum”

  127. B.D. Sheehan:

    Quite a good bit of vitriol here about the addition (or deletion) of one letter! (e.g., “…if you want to speak a different language go ahead but you can’t teach granny how to suck eggs.”). I suppose everyone has extra time on their hands? Or maybe your boiling point is exceedingly low?

    The argument about right or wrong is a complete waste of time. It’s “Math” in the U.S. and “Maths” in the UK/Commonwealth. That’s it. End of story. Please just accept it… we’re different and there’s nothing wrong with that.

    I assume that somewhere, hidden on the Internet, there must be spirited debates over “Behavior vs. Behaviour” and “Realize vs. Realise”…

  128. Bobby:

    “I suppose everyone has extra time on their hands” says the guy who’s not only here reading but replying too.

    BTW it’s not just the UK and commonwealth, it’s everywhere that speaks English as a first, second or third language, be it China or Africa etc, basically everywhere but Amercant, I have a different word for America but that’s ok apparently, as long as I tell everyone it’s not America but it’s really Americant it must be right after all it’s a free for all to change all the words just to be special.

    And yes there will be debate about the other words you forgot how to spell, you haven’t even got the hang of how to say a lot of them.

    If you find it too difficult to learn English then fair enough we understand but you can’t tell the English that their language is wrong and you’re right, having said that it’s to be expected from someone that thinks Math is right, have you started telling Mexicans how to speak Mexican yet, I guess you already told the Native Americans when you were filling them full of holes. :)

  129. Expat:

    It is almost always the case that what you were bought up with is correct and anything else is incorrect, to me maths is correct, simply because the word it is short for is mathematics, however, as long what hear makes sense, I do not have a problem, what I really have a problem with, (as mentioned above) is all the screwing around with the date, DD/MM/YY is far more logical and understandable, than any of the American variables, using MM/DD/YY has screwed things up on many occasions….

  130. really?:

    ““maths” on this side of the Atlantic strikes me as silly and vaguely pathetic.”

    This comment strikes me as more than just vaguely pathetic. Obviously and shamefully pathetic that you assume anyone who uses maths (the one you don’t use) is posturing, silly, or vaguely pathetic.

    Take a look in the mirror. What a disgusting judgement to cast based on absolutely no information at all. You’re a pathetic person.

  131. Rose:

    “If you find it too difficult to learn English then fair enough we understand but you can’t tell the English that their language is wrong and you’re right, having said that it’s to be expected from someone that thinks Math is right, have you started telling Mexicans how to speak Mexican yet, I guess you already told the Native Americans when you were filling them full of holes. :)” -Bobby

    “Americants” have every European power that colonized North America to thank for that legacy of European Hegemony. After all, Americans are descendents of the British colonies and only naturally carried forward many of the traditions which had been practiced for centuries. Before you go singling out Americans for the persecution of Native Americans you should stop and think about how many European states did the exact same thing long before the United States even existed.

    That being said, I think this entire argument between Math and Maths is ridiculous since by its nature it implies that cultural differences in language are recent developments. It also ignores the fact that the English language, like every language, is constantly evolving. Human nature tends to oppose change within a single generation, but within multiple generations change is embraced. I say math, you say maths. All that matters is that the concept is clear.

  132. Drew:

    In in Mexico people speak Spanish, not Mexican.

  133. Zachary:

    Those last two paragraghs really got on my nerves, not because you’re making fun of America, we kind of deserve it, but because of your failure to realise the fact that there is such a thing as a dialect.Mexicans don’t speak Spanish the same way the Spanish do, does that mean there speaking it wrong? Of course not, and your bigger idiot than you realise if you think so.Go read Dr.Alsop’s comment.

  134. Zachary:

    And rose’s too while your at it.

  135. david:

    either way .. both short for mathematics. debate closed

  136. Randall:

    Americans us “math” while the British/Commonwealth use “maths.” You should also be aware that Americans use the word “sports” while the UK uses “sport” for both singular and plural.

  137. Unclever title:

    Tom, don’t just assume because your country is older that it hasn’t modified it’s language over time as well. Reread this part of the article:

    “Math” as a colloquial short form of “mathematics” first appeared in print quite a while ago, in 1847, although that “math” sported a period (“It rained so that we had a math. lesson indoors.”) and was thus clearly a simple informal abbreviation. “Math” unadorned appeared by the 1870s. “Maths” is a bit newer, first appearing in print in 1911.

    Seeing as Math preceeds Maths then this is clearly a case of the English “bastardizing” (as you put it) their own language.

    No one nationality or country “owns a language.” People communicate as they will.

    Languages grow and develop naturally over time. Despite anyone’s whining to the contrary our respective cultures will continue to say things or change how we say things as much as we dang well please.

  138. richard shumway:

    Is there anyone who abbreviates gymnastics to gyms? I never heard of “maths” before the internet age. The first few times I saw it I thought it was some juvenile attempt at humor. “Maths” is fine if you’re British, but Americans who say it are looked upon as posers.

  139. Joseph:

    I’m just going to lightly say “maybe the Germans should be flipping pissed off that we (brits, ‘mericans, aussies, cans, etc…) are all speaking German wrong, and even going so far as to use the wrong name”

    I fully expect in a number of generations time (if the internet doesn’t somehow halt the divergance of language) that today’s English will diverge (especially after Chinese becomes the World’s lingua franca) into many dialects producing something similar to what happened to Latin after the fall of Rome. That once vibrant and world-wide (Relavent world) language diverged astonishingly quickly into Spanish, French, Italian, Portugese, etc… and even strongly changed other languages. So I won’t get angry when anyone wishes to say “maths” instead of “math” if nobody gets angry at me for saying “yall” instead of “you(pl)” because that practice actually adds more complication into the grammar of English than is currently accepted (officially(not even officially, because English doesn’t have a legally supported center of Language Use or whatever like many other languages do, for example Spanish or French)). So what does the future hold for English if the Southern Americans are speaking with more complicated grammar (rather than simplifying?) and Brits are adding S’s onto Grammatically singular nouns and Western Americans are inventing new words from absolutely nothing? What will constitute “English” in another hundred years? Math and Maths will be the least of our problems. Oh and on the topic of the “Internet Age of English”, now we are gaining more words every day ranging from the seemingly mentally-challenged “lol” (spoken like lull or lawl) to the absolutely essential “google” (providing a clarification between “searching the room” and “searching the internet” the latter being most commonly referred to as “googling”) So all-in-all English will never be the same for more than one day between a handful of people so get used to it. Also, most of Britain now speaks a pronunciation variant of Enlgish that’s around been around since after the Colonies in America were begun; Colonists kept the older pronunciations so now most Americans speak with an older accent than the English (most generally, there are exceptions).

  140. Connect4:

    Can’t believe how ugly this got. You can’t teach Granny to suck eggs? Granny taught herself, with some help from the French, maybe?

    Shakespeare used CENTER, not centre.

    SO MANY WORDS Americans use are older, sometimes Elizabethan forms that Americans stuck with and Brits ditched.

    gotten – Americans didn’t invent this. Britons did away with it around the 17th/18th C.
    color – it had no U before it was given a U… applies to many.
    sled/sledge (UK) – it was a sled from a Dutch form of “slide” first.
    Aluminium – was originally called Aluminum by English chemist Sir Humphry Davy… until Brits wanted it to rhyme with Potassium, etc. And that gets tutted about the most!

    Tyre was the word for the dressing of a carriage wheel in England in the 13th C. English changed spelling to TIRE in 15th C (Americans kept that one)… and Brits went back to TYRE in 19th C.

    There are more.

    … Just some things to think about. Think of some more that bother you, and really look into the etymology behind them. It isn’t simple and reading these comments confirms the adage that a person is only as dumb as they are certain.

  141. Brett:

    People, please read the article. ‘Mathematics’ is a singular collective noun, just like ‘Linguistics.’ This is evidenced byt the fact that we say ‘Linguistics is a subject’ just as we say ‘Mathematics is a subject.’

    The point of the article is that it is technically incorrect to add an ‘s’ to an abbreviated collective noun. Of course this is not to say it is culturally incorrect to do so for those outside of the US. Believe me, as an American, I realize that my pronunciation of letter ‘z’ as zee is technically incorrect because the letter came from the Greek ‘Zeta’ (which is logically shortened to ‘zet’ or ‘zed’) but I am not about to say ‘zed’ because that was not how I was taught in grade school :)

  142. Ralph Dieter:

    Interesting discussion. Math vs Maths.
    To my ears, maths for mathematics seems like
    mathl for mathematical.

    Neither sound correct.

    Ralph

  143. Neal:

    Oh dear Zachary.
    Shame on you for the poor English grammar.

    The line…
    >>does that mean there speaking..
    Should be:
    >>does that mean they’re speaking..

    Furthermore…
    >>and your bigger idiot than you realise
    should be:
    >>and you’re a bigger idiot than you realise

    So, just to be clear, exactly who’s the idiot?

  144. Jack-d:

    Maths has 5 characters, Math has 4.
    The difference would be 1.

  145. Ryan:

    I am shocked that one so intensely concerned with appropriate grammar and punctuation would commit an error so grievous as using capitalization for emphasis.

    Plus, crossing sevens is entirely functional if one has the tendency to write sevens that look like twos. As a mathematician, I have yet to find another who particularly cares how persons of different cultures parse the word, they’re typically much more likely to ask the Brit about their own research than their word usage.

  146. Joke99:

    So just so we’re clear, as an Australian who’s so very sad over the loss of British ways, you must be a big fan of imperialism, right? It’s just the cultural variety of same that you don’t enjoy?

  147. Zac:

    Before the Nineteenth Century, capitalization was used to emphasise a word much like underlining or italicising. If you look at the United States Constitution you will find that many seemingly random words are capitalized, and that is purely for emphasis. You can look at many writings from before the Twentieth Century and see capitalisation for emphasis. Although it’s not common usage any more, it could still be considered correct in some form.

  148. Del Boy:

    Cohorts!!!!! Pleb! Word evolution through misunderstanding!

  149. Thomas:

    Nailed it. Is it englishs, fishs or sheeps to denote more then one? No on butchers the English language more then the English.

  150. Philip Russell:

    Maths is the abreviation used in most if not all English speaking countries except USA and Canada, not just GB (or UK). Another is your use of “gotten” instead of “got”. Outside North America this is very irritating so unless you’re deliberately trying to be annoying you shouldn’t be trying to justify your choice to be different because it comes across as arrogance. PS it’s a shame that Canadians can’t resist becoming “Amercanised”.

  151. calum:

    It’s MATH’S with an “S”
    Bloody Americans!!!
    And while were at it, it’s HERB not “ERB”
    And Jag-U-ar not “Jag-waar”
    No wonder the USA is the laughingstock of the world.

  152. ecadre:


    Can’t believe how ugly this got. You can’t teach Granny to suck eggs? Granny taught herself, with some help from the French, maybe?

    Shakespeare used CENTER, not centre.

    Even if that is true, using it to try to back up your point is, well, pointless. Shakespeare used plenty of “odd” spellings. He lived at a time when there was no standardisation of spelling, just look at the number of ways he spelt his own name. Cherry picking a single word proves nothing much.

    However, and I will refer to this again, the modern spelling “center” is derived from Noah Webster and his dictionary which he used to promote spelling reform. Before Webster Americans used “centre” as derived from the latin “centrum”.

    SO MANY WORDS Americans use are older, sometimes Elizabethan forms that Americans stuck with and Brits ditched.

    Some are, some aren’t. Depends upon the words you choose to reply upon/cherry pick for your argument.

    gotten – Amricans didn’t invent this. Britons did away with it around the 17th/18th C.

    “color – it had no U before it was given a U… applies to many.”

    Webster’s dictionary. Again. That’s where the American “specialisation” of many spellings became fixed. Before Webster Americans used to spell it “colour”.

    sled/sledge (UK) – it was a sled from a Dutch form of “slide” first.

    So what? Um, we (and in British) would say “sled” too.

    Aluminium – was originally called Aluminum by English chemist Sir Humphry Davy… until Brits wanted it to rhyme with Potassium, etc. And that gets tutted about the most!

    Sorry, that’s wrong. Davy first coined the word “Alumium”. He a few years later changed it to “Aluminum” which was objected to in the same year and generally changed to “Aluminium”.

    Check on the google word search for printed materials and you will see that until Webster’s dictionary the vast majority of American publications used “Aluminium”.

    Tyre was the word for the dressing of a carriage wheel in England in the 13th C. English changed spelling to TIRE in 15th C (Americans kept that one)… and Brits went back to TYRE in 19th C.

    It comes from the French and therefore was spelled as “tire”. The “tyre” speeling does not come from the 13th Century.

    Before spelling standardisation all sorts of things went on, but the British didn’t go back to “tyre” as it hadn’t existed before the mid 19th Century. So, it’s a new word. Woopy-doo for you. The British use a different word and that signifies, what?

    It signifies for me that this is a living language, and for you to come up with some silly argument that the people in the US use an older (do you mean purer, better and more correct version?) is rather silly when you look at the the massive influence of Webster and the relatively late standardisation of “national” spelling styles both sides of the Atlantic ocean (not to mention other places).

    There are more.

    … Just some things to think about. Think of some more that bother you, and really look into the etymology behind them. It isn’t simple and reading these comments confirms the adage that a person is only as dumb as they are certain.

    It means that you probably need to buy a copy of the OED :-P

  153. ecadre:


    Can’t believe how ugly this got. You can’t teach Granny to suck eggs? Granny taught herself, with some help from the French, maybe?

    Shakespeare used CENTER, not centre.

    Even if that is true, using it to try to back up your point is, well, pointless. Shakespeare used plenty of “odd” spellings. He lived at a time when there was no standardisation of spelling, just look at the number of ways he spelt his own name. Cherry picking a single word proves nothing much.

    However, and I will refer to this again, the modern spelling “center” is derived from Noah Webster and his dictionary which he used to promote spelling reform. Before Webster Americans used “centre” as derived from the latin “centrum”.

    SO MANY WORDS Americans use are older, sometimes Elizabethan forms that Americans stuck with and Brits ditched.

    Some are, some aren’t. Depends upon the words you choose to reply upon/cherry pick for your argument.

    gotten – Amricans didn’t invent this. Britons did away with it around the 17th/18th C.

    “color – it had no U before it was given a U… applies to many.”

    Webster’s dictionary. Again. That’s where the American “specialisation” of many spellings became fixed. Before Webster Americans used to spell it “colour”.

    sled/sledge (UK) – it was a sled from a Dutch form of “slide” first.

    So what? Um, we (and in British) would say “sled” too.

    Aluminium – was originally called Aluminum by English chemist Sir Humphry Davy… until Brits wanted it to rhyme with Potassium, etc. And that gets tutted about the most!

    Sorry, that’s wrong. Davy first coined the word “Alumium”. He a few years later changed it to “Aluminum” which was objected to in the same year and generally changed to “Aluminium”.

    Check on the google word search for printed materials and you will see that until Webster’s dictionary the vast majority of American publications used “Aluminium”.

    Tyre was the word for the dressing of a carriage wheel in England in the 13th C. English changed spelling to TIRE in 15th C (Americans kept that one)… and Brits went back to TYRE in 19th C.

    It comes from the French and therefore was spelled as “tire”. The “tyre” speeling does not come from the 13th Century.

    Before spelling standardisation all sorts of things went on, but the British didn’t go back to “tyre” as it hadn’t existed before the mid 19th Century. So, it’s a new word. Woopy-doo for you. The British use a different word and that signifies, what?

    It signifies for me that this is a living language, and for you to come up with some silly argument that the people in the US use an older (do you mean purer, better and more correct version?) is rather silly when you look at the the massive influence of Webster and the relatively late standardisation of “national” spelling styles both sides of the Atlantic ocean (not to mention other places).

    There are more.

    … Just some things to think about. Think of some more that bother you, and really look into the etymology behind them. It isn’t simple and reading these comments confirms the adage that a person is only as dumb as they are certain.

    It means that you probably need to buy a copy of the OED :-P

  154. Billy:

    Mate, I just looked up the word ‘mathematic’ in the New Oxford American Dictionary and it says that it is the singular of mathematics, which in turn says that ‘mathematics’ is the plural of mathematic. Therefore it would be right to say that mathematics is a plural, the same as maths is a plural of math. For that reason when talking about maths as a subject and general conversation, it should be referred to as maths, thus making americans wrong considering that this point comes from the New Oxford American Dictionary.

  155. Furley:

    The word is mathematics and neither math nor maths can claim to be correct . The problem is that the word is mathematics plural and if you say math then it has to be excepted that mathematics is the word you mean . Mathematic is not a word so if you want to use math in a singular sense then math needs to become a word in its own right .

  156. Hannah:

    This whole article seems pretty pointless to me seeing as it’s clarified pretty early on that maths is grammatically correct due to mathematics being a plural noun… This just comes across like an American trying to claim that Americans understand English better than the English… to quote the article itself “pathetic”

  157. Kieren:

    I cross my sevens … not because of low self-esteem, but because it helps distinguish them from a ’1′ … … Perhaps stick to grammar, as opposed to amateur psychology … ?! ;P

  158. Albert:

    Wow I did not realize how much the US gets hated on. (I am an American by the way) I guess we deserve it most of the time but please I guarantee you hate us more than we hate you. But I mean I really like the way the Brits say “Maths” It sounds cool to me anyway. I do however think Math is correct. Mathematics means the study of X. (or at least that is what it meant when translated from the Greek word Mathematica) While yes “a” is plural in Greek, the translators made it so that its the study of X instead of everything to do with X. So one might see where the confusion starts. We changed and originally plural word into a singular word. Also people say that the since it was plural then we should keep the “s” at the end, but what this sentence “Maths is fun.” How can we have an “s” at the and of Math when the word “is” is present. the word “is” has singular value and the word “are” is meant to be plural. Then again its all subjective based on culture and all that good jazz.

  159. Aussie Nick:

    I loved reading all of this – but what a waste of time and internet bandwidth. Now here is something far more important – the spelling of metric distance by the Americans – “meter”? What the…!! It’s “metre” mate! “Metre” is for distance (example: 100 metres) and “Meter” for a measuring instrument (example: a water/electricty meter).

    Here in Australia it’s “maths” and “z” is pronounced as “zed” except for about 20-25% of people under 30 who do say “math” and (sometimes)”zee”. That reflects the influence of American culture, “Seasame Street” and the Internet (which in English is still very American).

  160. Unjack-d:

    You have a point there bro.

  161. john keyes:

    I enjoy a good debate about word usage. It would be a lot more pleasant however if both sides were equally adept.

    First of all, the idea that “mathematics” is a single field of study and therefore not a plural noun is absurd. “Mathematics” is beyond doubt plural. However, when it is collectively referred to as “(the study of) mathematics”, the study is singular regardless of the plurality of the subject.

    In other words: yes, mathematics as a field is singular, but the term “mathematics” itself is positively plural. Thus “maths” is a sensible abbreviation.

    As for the early tendency of Americans (led by Noah Webster) to “standardise” the English language, I can only suggest that this grew out of animosity towards Britain as a consequence of political differences. To justify changes of “color” for “colour” etc. out of spite for England is not what I would call proper cultural development. It is more like propaganda.

  162. Bethany:

    LOL. This sort of thing is what killed Latin. People insisting on keeping it pure not realizing that it was morphing into French, Spanish and Italian. So only the learned (clergy) ended up speaking it and it is useless now save for word roots and historians.

  163. englishererer:

    mathl for mathmatical…

    you might regret typing that in 10 years

  164. englishererer:

    im english and use maths but to be honest math is probably correct honey.

  165. Brits, Cool It!:

    I am a Brit living in the US. Brits are more guilty here of flaming. Americans are showing more tolerance. As someone else commented, Brit’s say “maths” and Americans say “math”. BTW, Brits would place the full stop (period) inside the quotation marks. That is all there is to it.

    Yes, the Brits have brought about changes to punctuation, or modernized/modernised it if you will. Colons, commas, (Oxford comma applies here in the UK) and full stops are being used less. It is quite possible, Americans have preserved many English usages, that have since fallen out of use in the UK.

    There are common usages such as “I could care less”, meaning “I couldn’t care less”, which is incorrect in both countries.

    Referring to old, literary documents as a reference for ‘correct’ (single quotes used for emphasis in the UK, not used so much in the US) is flawed, since there was even less universal agreement, or formal language rules in former times. Sometimes, poor English in the US is as a result of the many ethnicities grappling with it as a second language. Sometimes, American revisions, to say spelling, make more sense. For example. dropping the letter “u” from words like favor (British use favour) is logical since it is more phonetic. British English probably retains more French influences than American English, which is understandable since they are our neighbors (neighbours in the UK).

    I personally find that Americans are much more pragmatic in their use of language, whereas the British are more expressive. That may be because more German blood flows through their veins than British. Just a theory I have.

    There is not doubt that English is a very rich language, producing literary giants (on) both sides of the pond. We should rejoice in that, and embrace our differences while preserving our common heritage from decay by the more detrimental effects of poor education and ‘bastardizations’ (substitute “s” for “z”) from social media and advertising (no “z” here) trends.

  166. Bitter "division"!:

    I have lived and studied east and west of the “pond”, and north and south of the globe. I have driven aluminum cars and crossed my sevens! I am an international mongrel. I have always loved “me sums” and wasn’t too shabby at “AP Calc”. But what truly annoys me about this dear subject is not the spelling of its abbreviated name, but the terrible mess the Anglophone world has made out of long division!! I now have to watch my little one learn this terrible and illogical method in her school, and it just feels me with angst! Who thought up this mess?! Can anyone find me the history of the method? I have searched it on the web with no joy! Why, oh why would they create a method that is so backwards!? In the Western World, we write from left to right, top to bottom. In a question like 127÷4, why start your calculation with a 4, then put some half rectangle with a 127 inside, and then, oh wait, now you have to start again, because the answer is going on top of this box and you have no space left!! As kids would say these days: WTF?!?! Have a look at the wikipedia article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long_division), and see how much more elegant the long division method is in places like France and Brazil, than in UK and USA. My daughter says it’s the “bus method”! I wish the inventors of this mess would sling their hook, get on their divisional bus, and ride into the sunset!

  167. ANDREW BOSTOCK-LAWTON:

    Please remembrer, you may be American, but you speak English… Please stop basterdising OUR language.

  168. American Hick:

    To us Americans, “British” is a synonym for eccentric.
    So how do you guys pronounce the name of the Texas-based rock band ZZ Top? We would giggle if you said “Zed Zed Top”.

  169. charlie:

    ZeeZeeTop cause it’s their name. My only problem, after smiling at all the intense debate above, is the British media adopting Americanisms more and more. It’s creepy.

  170. Adam:

    I’m not sure that anyone who writes the paragraph

    “It’s maths because it’s more than one number (always) otherwise it’s called a number, saying math makes you sound stupid, you speak English and the English word is maths, bastardize it all you like it’s still English therefor it’s maths, if you want to speak a different language go ahead but you can’t teach granny how to suck eggs. Americans don’t even know how the whole world expresses the date without trying to mess that up as well. I suspect you forgot alot on the boat trip.”

    is really in any place to advise anyone on how to properly communicate in English.

  171. Adam:

    “I guess you already told the Native Americans when you were filling them full of holes. :)”

    Yes. It was Americans doing this. Not British or Dutch or Portuguese or Spanish or French. Just Americans. After all, as soon as one steps onto the shores of America, one becomes an American. Just as the English had nothing to do with the marginalization of Australian Aborigines, it was those mean ol’ Australians. The Maori people weren’t persecuted by the Brits, what what, they were persecuted by New Zealanders. South Africa, the Zulu Kingdom, no problems with the Brits at all! Yep, as soon as a country divests itself from the Empire, the Empire gets to divest itself from any history involving itself and the land it colonized.

    America has a pretty horrible history when it comes to the treatment of her natives, but let’s not pretend like the British weren’t involved at all. That insults us all.

  172. Dave:

    …And then not capitalise a title such a Mathematician. Lets not get started on the irrelevance of an American dictionary when dealing with English. It’s fair to have your deviation from the source, do please recognise though that it’s correct in it’s context, but may not be so in another.

  173. John of Yorkshire:

    Hello from God’s own Country.
    I have read though these post(ing)s with so much interest.

    Yes, I have seen honor instead of honour in letters written by people who lived in these parts during the 18th and 19th Centuries, so I have stopped being scathing of English spellings used by Americans. Early British railway builders and owners used the words railroad, waggonway or tramroad with no distinction.

    As many of the earlier contributors have said, spelling became standardised very late in the history of the language. Perhaps the problem, as someone alluded to, was that Webster compiled his dictionary at a time when the old and new worlds were not exactly on speaking terms, or at least, intercontinental communication was a very tedious process. It would have been almost impossible for him to keep up with changes taking place in the rest of the English speaking countries.

    My only grouse is over the lazy use of words, or inventing new ones because the speaker or writer cannot be bothered to use the correct one. An example which appeared in an internal memo (memorandum) last week, was “sortation” This was a native UK speaker. We think she meant “sorting of” mail.

    Me? I will envisage not envisaging; travelling by tram not streetcar, fly in an aeroplane not airplane and drive my motor-car to the railway station.
    Vive la difference, as we say in Yorkshire at the start of the Tour de France

  174. Gary:

    No we don’t we have potted sports, a sports hall and i represented my school in 3 different sports. My favourite sport is Windsurfing.

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