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Theater or Theatre?

Both mean the same thing. So why the different endings, and which is correct?

"Theatre" is the British spelling. Like "shoppe" and "colour." Noah Webster, of dictionary fame, preferred spelling words the way they sounded. He also advocated an "American" language and changed "theatre" to "theater."

So "theater" is the American spelling. Or is it? A majority of San Diego theaters are Theatres (the Old Globe, the Rep, Diversionary, Lamb's, etc.). This is also true around the country and almost across the board on Broadway.

Image

Diversionary Theatre in University Heights

A theory, which may be just snooty speculation, holds that "theatre" is the more dignified spelling. If a theater is just a "theater," it doesn't take itself seriously (or won't sound sufficiently British, where they take theater seriously). The -re implies art. The -er, something less.

Image

The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park

That's the high buck approach. It also could be a case of popular usage trumping correctness. "Theatre" has a much longer tradition. That's how Shakespeare spelled it, in fact.

But here's the tricky part. "Theatre" reigns as the spelling for companies. But use it in everyday writing and it sounds like 'thea-tah," and you'll sound like ten kinds of snob.

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Both mean the same thing. So why the different endings, and which is correct?

"Theatre" is the British spelling. Like "shoppe" and "colour." Noah Webster, of dictionary fame, preferred spelling words the way they sounded. He also advocated an "American" language and changed "theatre" to "theater."

So "theater" is the American spelling. Or is it? A majority of San Diego theaters are Theatres (the Old Globe, the Rep, Diversionary, Lamb's, etc.). This is also true around the country and almost across the board on Broadway.

Image

Diversionary Theatre in University Heights

A theory, which may be just snooty speculation, holds that "theatre" is the more dignified spelling. If a theater is just a "theater," it doesn't take itself seriously (or won't sound sufficiently British, where they take theater seriously). The -re implies art. The -er, something less.

Image

The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park

That's the high buck approach. It also could be a case of popular usage trumping correctness. "Theatre" has a much longer tradition. That's how Shakespeare spelled it, in fact.

But here's the tricky part. "Theatre" reigns as the spelling for companies. But use it in everyday writing and it sounds like 'thea-tah," and you'll sound like ten kinds of snob.

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Comments
4

I can't stand the -re version. Irritates me every time I have to type it. No offense to our wonderful local stages. But American show directors don't go around pronouncing the word "schedule" as if it were spelled "shedule," so I say choose a country and stick to it. ;)

May 25, 2011

When you pretend for a living, pretension comes naturally.

Hence the -re spelling.

May 25, 2011

Thea-tuh, dahling. All the way.

It pre-dates America.

May 25, 2011

i feel spot on with theatre....spell honour...it's the Kings English u know...which in no way explains my ghetto-ise shorthand

i choose Britain....sometimes...hahahahahaha

i choose to globalize

snob over and out ;-D

May 25, 2011

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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