English as she is writ: iPad's spellcheck revolt

Posted on by Mike Evans

(See below, this little problem is now solved)

Despite advances in technology, spellchecking is something that is never entirely as you’d wish. For years I’ve struggled with the overweening desire of American-designed devices to default to American English spelling in preference to my native English English. I conquered the iPhone, which now more or obeys my writ, but the iPad continues to have a mind of its own.

The first thing to remember is that the iPad, born to American parents in China, is by nature American. But if you view the International settings, you’ll find “English” as the chosen language. This is the language I try my best to speak and to write. Unfortunately, “English” in Appletalk means “American English”. Look further and, buried somewhere between Tagalog and Tieng Viet, you will find the obscure and much-neglected dialect known at One Infinite Loop as “British English”.¹

So why is American English identified as just “English” in Apple’s list? If we must suffer the tautological “British English” why should we not see “American English” in order to avoid unnecessary confusion in the minds of users? There are also Australasian English, Indian English, Canadian English, South African English and other flavo(u)rs that could do with a localised dictionary. These days unadorned English does need qualification, even in Cupertino.

Anyway, I digress. The problem is, even after dredging “British English” from the depths of the list of minor languages and dialects, I find my iPad insisting on flagging perfectly correct words (such as characterise) as incorrect. It insists on “ize” when common prejudice here in Chiswick runs to “ise”. Zed (or zee) looks ugly to my eyes, despite its acceptance as an alternative in the OED.

And what about “travelling” and other British spelling preferences? iPad keeps suggesting the American version “traveling”. And we won’t even mention color. Ah, my iPad even with “British” English, does mistakenly warm to that spelling.

Nothing I can do persuades my iPad to spell properly. She insists on returning to her Cupertino roots (via China, of course) even with the British dictionary loaded (or is it?). I really would welcome a permanent solution. In the meantime I’ve handed the problem over to the excellent Apple Discussions. Enlightenment is awaited.


¹ The British are not alone in being victimi(Z)ed in this way. The Portuguese have a similar problem with “Portuguese” (presumably south American Portuguese) and “Portuguese (Portugal)” in Apple’s list.

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