Adapter / Adaptor
January 7, 2005 9:20 AM   Subscribe

Language bigots: adapter or adaptor?

bigots meant in the nicest possible way of course.
posted by jnthnjng to Writing & Language (28 answers total)
(shrug) My dictionary lists "adaptor" as an acceptable variant of "adapter."

Googlewar results: "adapter" gets 38,800,000 hits vs. "adaptor" with 15,800,000.

Personally, I don't have strong feelings about it either way, as long as you pick one and use it consistently. It would seem that "adapter" is the more common spelling by a better than two-to-one margin, however.

(Language bigot qualifications: I've been a technical writer and editor for about twenty years now.)
posted by enrevanche at 9:35 AM on January 7, 2005

I just got hassled by someone about this a few weeks ago! I was emailing a guy about getting some stuff set up for a presentation I was giving. I said "OK good I'll bring my adapter" and he replied with "Yes, make sure you have your ADAPTOR with you" [all-caps, just like that]. I hadn't even known there was something to be bigoted about before that. I'm American and he's Australian, if that matters.
posted by jessamyn at 9:35 AM on January 7, 2005

It appears to be an American/British thing, but both spellings are acceptable on both continents.

A better question: Diarrhea or Diarrhoea?
posted by thirdparty at 9:37 AM on January 7, 2005

That entry pretty clearly says that both are correct. The one listed first in the entry will be more common or maybe even "preferred" but they are both correct. Columbia Guide to Standard American English says the second one is a variant, and has more info on agentive endings.

I think what's more important is to have internal consistency in your own {writing, publication}. For example, while adviser and advisor are both correct according to any dictionary or usage guide, the AP stylebook specifies adviser. If you don't already have a personal preference, it might be good to stick with the one that occurs first in the dictionary so you can remember which one you use easily.
posted by grouse at 9:38 AM on January 7, 2005

I spent good time learning to spell diarrhoea as a child, and I'll be damned if I let some descriptivist swine ruin it for me. The OED is largely in my corner in this. Hurrah for the OED (this time).

And to hell with the Spellchecker too.
posted by biffa at 9:43 AM on January 7, 2005

Aluminum or Aluminium.
posted by seanyboy at 9:52 AM on January 7, 2005

biffa: Diarrhœa is British English; diarrhea is American English. The OED thinks that "color" has a "U" in it. Shows what it knows.
posted by grouse at 10:00 AM on January 7, 2005

Diarrhœa is British English; diarrhea is American English

grose: And I think we all know which of those is correct.
posted by biffa at 10:08 AM on January 7, 2005

Google addendum: 3,470,000 results with BOTH "adapter" and "adopter" on the same web page.
posted by WestCoaster at 10:15 AM on January 7, 2005

Aluminium, 'cause it's more fun to say.

Not diarrhoea, but diarrhœa. Or maybe it's diarrhoæ. And probably that 'rr' is some other special character.

If someone has access to the big, twenty-foot-long OED, look up "drama queen" for us, eh? I'm betting it was originally applied to overwrought women, and had nothing to do with homosexual men.

Finally, it's an adapter if it's converting, say, British 50Hz 240V to Canadian 60Hz 120V; but it's an adaptor if it's going the other way around. ! :-)
posted by five fresh fish at 10:37 AM on January 7, 2005

biffa, the answer is Canadian English, right?
posted by shepd at 10:37 AM on January 7, 2005

I got in a big discussion with my boss about Adaptation vs. Adaption. I hadn't ever heard anybody say "adaption" before, but she was quite sure of herself.
posted by Hillman Cobs at 11:08 AM on January 7, 2005

Brits say "orientate" instread of "orient." That right there has lost them any special claim over the language.

Anyway, Biffa, the answer is of course "the one with the biggest army to back it up."
posted by dame at 11:17 AM on January 7, 2005

Dame, the brits are intelligent for that reason.

Orientate has a single meaning (I have *never* experienced it being used to meant to face eastwards), whereas Orient has multiple meanings (ranging from slightly racist to turning things). Using a word that clearly distinguishes meaning is preferrable, IMHO.
posted by shepd at 11:31 AM on January 7, 2005

Oh, Shepd, I so disagree. I prefer that words have as many meanings as possible: that's what makes language fun to play with. How boring to have a one-to-one correspondence. Context and ambiguity are the things literature are made from. Would you prefer "cleave" never existed? Should we make up new words for "lead" or "read"? No, I say. NO!!!!!

Preferable has one "r." Just to Nazi things up. Can you find my mistake? ( if I belived in them, there would be a smiley here.)
posted by dame at 11:49 AM on January 7, 2005

I'm with Dame here. What makes English my favorite language (aside from the fact that it's the one I speak) is the way ambiguity turns discourse into poetry.

Also, adaptor. This whole class of words, things that take action or have purpose (i.e., adaptor, resistor, aviator, proctor) are made more active, in my mind, by being made actors.

I also used to anthropomorphosize numbers and musical notes as a child, because I am completely fucking insane. My brain still works best this way.
posted by mikrophon at 12:12 PM on January 7, 2005

According to the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, adapter and adaptation are prefered over adaptor and adaption (a word I have also never heard used in conversation).
posted by Monk at 2:09 PM on January 7, 2005

Aluminum vs. aluminium is directly split along national lines, so you may as well ask "What country were you raised in?" instead. Adaptor/er are more interesting in that both are used in the U.S., so it really does come down to personal preference.

As for diarrhoea vs. diarrhea, that's easy: diarrhea, because diarrhoea is just wrong.

Now, diarrhœa vs. diarrhea? That's a different story.
posted by Bugbread at 2:20 PM on January 7, 2005

spelling != language
posted by ism at 3:05 PM on January 7, 2005

spelling ? language
posted by grouse at 4:14 PM on January 7, 2005

That was supposed to be U+2208 ELEMENT OF. It showed up fine in preview. :(
posted by grouse at 4:15 PM on January 7, 2005

A better question: Diarrhea or Diarrhoea?

An even better question: Logorrhea or Logorrhoea?
posted by felix betachat at 4:16 PM on January 7, 2005

A tangent on spelling in other languages... I am pretty sure that there are no spelling bees in Hungarian, a language that has been comparatively recently cast in the Roman alphabet. I was told by the American mother of a child in Hungary that while Hungarian kids talk later than English-speaking kids (it's a hard, or they would say "heavy", language in some ways), they read much earlier, and much more interesting books. Apparently the extra mental cost of dealing with the horribly written English language holds children back a while.

WestCoaster: I only found 343.000 for "adapter" and "adopter" (as long as we're on the bigot thread).
posted by Aknaton at 4:26 PM on January 7, 2005



Must. Not. Spaz.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:15 AM on January 8, 2005

I recently heard a Brit say "aluminium"* on a home makeover show. I got a headache from laughing so hard.

The poor Canucks have it hard with both English and American influences. Spelling and pronounciation are all over the place.

And yeah, "orientate" makes my teeth hurt as much as "irregardless." "Disorientated" would follow, yes? Yikes!

posted by deborah at 1:55 PM on January 8, 2005

deborah, believe me, USAians saying al-oo-min-um is as equally funny to us brits.
posted by viama at 2:58 PM on January 8, 2005

Are there any other elements where Americans strip out the i? Why aren't Wolverine's bones laced with Adamantum?
posted by biffa at 6:14 AM on January 10, 2005

biffa: I think you'll find the Brits added the extra letters, and are the ones who should be classified as wrong. And deborah, it's Al-you-min-ee-um or Al-You-min-yum.
posted by seanyboy at 3:22 PM on January 10, 2005

« Older Artists creating in response to Iraq war   |   Job Satisfaction Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.