Organizing Our Marvellous Neighbours:

How to Feel Good About Canadian English

A new book by Joe Clark about Canadian spelling

What’s new

Or buy the book, learn about it, find out what’s new, read the offsite blog, download the raw data, look at related pictures, read the errata, or contact the author


Download the book for free at Internet Archive.


I’m now giving away the book for free, but you have to ask for it.


Last week, ABC Radio National’s linguistics program Lingua Franca interviewed me about Canadian English and Organizing Our Marvellous Neighbours.


Esteemed colleague Grant Barrett interviewed me for the Copyediting podcast on the numerous vagaries of Canadian spelling. (No, you do not have “a tonne” of work to do.)


ePub version now available, for all you people with iPads or anything that isn’t a Kindle. It costs $17.83 (yes, you have to buy it all over again).


Old Wine in New Bottles alert: In a week or so, Organizing Our Marvellous Neighbours will be reissued in actual ePub format so you can read it on any E-book reader that isn’t a Kindle. (Yes, including the iPad, eventually.) You’ll have to buy it again, but it’ll be half price.


OOMN now has a listing at Library and Archives Canada.


I changed my mind: Version 1.1 released

Today I sent V1.1 of Organizing Our Marvellous Neighbours. It was less trouble than I thought, and I needed a corrected version for deposit with Library and Archives Canada.

All purchasers of V1.0 have received V1.1. There still won’t be a V2.o.


New podcast appearance

I was interviewed about Organizing Our Marvellous Neighbours several weeks ago by Patrick Cox for his enjoyable podcast on language, The World in Words. The interview is finally up:

Transcript coming up soonish.


Today, the Organizing Our Marvellous Neighbours project concludes

After working – off and on, it goes without saying – for a month and a half trying to incorporate corrections to Version 1.0 for publication as a Version 1.1, I give up. Why? There’s barely anything to correct, and I’m not getting paid for this.

The errata page lists known errors in Organizing Our Marvellous Neighbours. They’re minor. I can live with them, despite being a perfectionist.

However, soon after releasing the book, I received a mail from a guy at Apple who claimed to be surprised at the results I got from the Macintosh built-in spellchecker. Now, to my knowledge no one from Apple ever actually bought a copy of the book at the princely sum of $17.83 Canadian, so I don’t know what he was talking about. Nonetheless, I had a friend attempt to replicate my results. Ten words differed, some of them iffy (nacer is always a misspelling of nacre everywhere, but in the replication it passed as a correct spelling). Ten words, out of 280 tokens surveyed across three dialects each, amount to nothing.

Now, the whole spellchecking experiment should be redone from scratch on fresh new installs to avoid contamination from words people add to the lexicon themselves. But I have reasonable confidence my results would not fundamentally change.

(I would add that Thierry Fontenelle and other nabobs from the Microsoft natural-language group also didn’t buy the book and also didn’t contact me.)

So if the Apple complaint was the biggest single factual dispute in the book, and I gave it the benefit of the doubt and found no substance there, why am I bothering?

Indeed, why am I? I am slowly learning, in this, my 20th year as a published writer and my 18th year online, that individual projects do not have to be tended for the rest of one’s life as though they were disabled children. Projects can be born, can flourish, then can fix themselves in amber.

I have spent the better part of five years slaving away at unpaid projects, to my detriment. I need to cut that nonsense out. OOMN brought in money – but it’s not bringing in any more money and it never will.

Hence, you should hold on to your copy of Organizing Our Marvellous Neighbours Version 1.0, because it is the first and last of its kind.

Transcript of TVO interview posted.

Audio and video now posted

Audio and video are now posted from my appearance on The Agenda with Steve Paikin:

Corrections, a transcript, and the Story of the Stockings coming up by this time next week.

OOMN drinking game

Every time I utter the phrase “rock solid,” take a sip of soyaccino.


Appearing on TV tomorrow night

I’m scheduled to appear on TVOntario’s current-affairs show The Agenda with Steve Paikin tomorrow (2009.01.30). The usual airtime is 20:00, with various repeats later and overnight. The episode page does not list me, but that may later change.

TVOntario is the Ontario educational broadcaster. The Agenda is a pretty good show, and I’ve been a fan of Steve Paikin’s for years. TVO is carried by ExpressVu and Star Choice and may be on your cable system even if you’re outside Ontario. You can watch via rabbit ears in most parts of the province. And! Every episode is available in video and audio podcasts (direct links to come).


He rocks out with his socks out

Me in stockinged feet posing with Steve Paikin by ‘The Agenda with Steve Paikin’ logotype

Now, whatever could it mean?

UPDATE (2009.02.23): It means I thought they’d be using the other set and I showed up with winter boots. Steve lent me his own shoes!


There won’t be a Version 2.0

I applied for the Dictionary Society of North America’s Laurence Urdang–DSNA Award. I learned last night that somebody else got it. This seals the fate of Organizing Our Marvellous Neighbours.

Why was it ever an electronic book? Because it could be, because I could do all the work myself and keep all the money, and, importantly, because OOMN is too short to be a printed book. Should it be a P-book anyway? Possibly – but it would have to be expanded, and for that to happen I’d have to do all sorts of new research. I do not pad; I would need new data to report.

I put in two years of off-and-on work to write OOMN in the first place. I don’t know how much extra work I would require for a V2.0, but it would surely involve serious database harvesting (e.g., of Canadian blogs and Twits) and yet another round of endless slogging through old books.

I didn’t get the DSNA Award. I don’t have any other funding sources lined up or even remotely feasible. Nobody’s beating down my door to pay me an advance to convert my E-book to a P-book.

Hence, after the corrected Version 1.1 comes out, which may be up to a month hence, I am going to have to stop working on Organizing Our Marvellous Neighbours. I am tired of doing work I don’t get paid for.

Because Katherine Barber and her staff have been shitcanned, this means no one in the country is following Canadian English spelling usage in real time. Another way Canada sucks; collect the whole set.

And there won’t be a Version 1.1, either

Because, as of 2009.02.23, the OOMN project is terminated.


Working on Version 1.1, which all current owners will receive. This is trickier than I thought.

Radio segment coming up next week.


Carried out my first under-table handoff of a CD-ROM copy of the book to a paying reader.

Version 1.1 coming in a few days, ostensibly.


I appeared on the Radio Canada International program The Link today, but sadly my interview did not make the resulting podcast. So I guess it just beamed its way out into the ether, as radio waves do.

UPDATE, a year later: You can listen to it via a Flash player (at about the 23:30 mark).


Reports of our “oblivion” are somewhat exaggerated in an article in the Toronto Star. According to an academic from my alma mater, Canadians have a superiority complex over Americans and the Internet exposes all readers to denationalized English.

If there were a rational proposal to replace Canadian English spellings with some other country’s, yes, we would feel superior to Americans and insist on British (even though we actually speak American English). But my empirical data show that, even with exposure to multiple English-language spelling traditions, even “Internet” spelling of Canadian English is indistinguishable from professionally-edited spellings or any other variety.

I’m so accustomed to the pop linguistics of blogs that I had almost forgotten how easily Ph.D. linguists can miss the point.

Mentioned on an Eye Weekly blog. (Ostensibly, OOMN will be covered in next week’s print issue.)
Mention in the Tubby. Mostly about Leslieville, but still. More about the photo shoot. (We did it behind the Hell’s Angels!)
A blizzard of new photos of Canadian spelling in the wild, and a blizzard of press interviews that will, one hopes, finally garner some coverage.
Book has been reviewed “on the Torontoist.”
Results from literary award-winners posted (Excel worksheet only).
New data and errata.
First data published: Spellchecker test sentences.

Busy first week.

  • I have an immediate goal of 100 sales and a later goal of 550. I’m at about 55 now – and you all have my thanks. I also ginned up a single-column iPhone version if anybody wants it.
  • A few reviews and mentions: Tripping, Adactio (it’s really just for Canadians, Jeremy – but I appreciate it), Cephalogenic.
  • An errata page is going up shortly. There are more errors than I’d like, but then again, zero errors (the amount I’d like) are unattainable.
  • Track people’s comments via Delicious. Also: MeFi Projects.

I have only barely begun to “market” the book via the mainstream media. In other words, you haven’t read about me in the paper or seen me on TV yet.

Now, what the hell is Oxford University Press doing shitcanning its entire dictionary division? Who the hell is going to write these wonderfully profitable online dictionaries? Old farts in England? I don’t think so.

Æsthetic improvements to Web site. Also: Not a bad opening day!
2008.09.25 15:14
We launch. Buy the book now for $17.83 Canadian.