Check - British English

From Hull AWE
Jump to: navigation, search

In British English, the word meaning 'an order to a bank to pay someone' is spelled cheque. The UK Parliament also has a title 'the Chancellor of the Exchequer', the Minister of Public Finances, which, with various derivative meanings, is spelled thus. The board game called chequers in the United States is called draughts in British English. (In Britain, Chequers is the name of a country house where the Prime Minister takes holidays.)

When this word is used to mean 'with a pattern based on squares', it is nowadays written with the check spelling: "the bookie's suit was made from cloth with very strong checks"; "the tablecloth was checked red and white".

In heraldic language, the technical term for 'chequered'. or 'patterned with small squares in alternating colours' is now usually checky; in the past, it was often spelled chequee, chequy or checquy.

In American English, most meanings of these homophones are spelled check. There is also a usage that a customer in a restaurant may ask the waiter for 'the check': in Britain, this is called the bill.

Etymological note: Oddly, both words were originally the same. The spellings were interchangeable. In the days before widespread literacy, the royal money was managed by an office called the chequer (as we now spell it) - because it used to deal with piles of cash arranged in the different squares of a checked cloth spread out so that all could see the accounts being dealt with fairly. Gradually the different spellings became distinct forms, for words whose meaning was becoming more distinct.
You may also want to see Check - tick.