Why I Now Refuse To Spell It T-H-E-A-T-R-E (And Why You Should Too)


Can you imagine trying to convince people working in the American theater to stop spelling it theatre?

Why would you even want to anyway?

It’s not like Merriam-Webster lists the theater spelling first. Or that the Associated Press Stylebook has any thoughts on theatre vs. theater.

Of course, you could say, “Theater refers to a building. And theatre suggests the live performance.”

And I could go with that. In fact, I used to use the theatre spelling. Frankly, it just seemed cooler.

Or maybe I’m just harboring feelings of inferiority?

At least, according to George E. Chartier, public relations specialist and author of the book: Full House, The Definitive Guide for Successfully Promoting School and Community Theater. He writes:

“This practice of using the continental spelling when an American word exists suggests to me that many people working in American theater harbor feeling of inferiority when comparing their nation’s efforts to Europe’s–and especially English theater.”

I’m not sure about all that. And I’m surely not trying to start a war between nations. But whatever the case may be, I’ve decided to spell it theater from now on. And I believe you should too.

Here’s why you should spell it theater

As a simple symbolic gesture. A means by which to say it’s time to leave the past behind and embrace the new. No need to balk if you have to spell it theatre because it’s part of a name. But when it comes time to choose–go with theater.

Now do I expect you to say, “That’s your best idea yet, Dave!”

No. No I don’t.

Spell theater any way you want

As long as you’re creating it. As long as you’re promoting it.

I’m more concerned with ways to make theater/theatre a viable means to make a living. At that point you could spell it t-i-d-d-l-y-w-i-n-k-s for all I care.

What do you think? Does it really matter which spelling you use? Or is it just a case of “you say tomato. I say tomato?” (I guess you’ll need to say that out loud.)

  • June 23, 2010
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