A distinctive programme

I maintain in my own usage a distinction between “program” and “programme”. This doesn’t depend on whether I am writing to Americans or not. The distinction is between two referents (I nearly wrote “things”, but neither are tangible). A _program_ is a set of precise instructions for a computer. Useful word; useful thing. A _programme_ is either a much vaguer set of plans and aspirations for a human being or an organisation — what most people nowadays call as strategy — or it is something made for the radio. It occurs to me that it can also be the listing for an evening’s entertainment. Either way, it needs to end in me.

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9 Responses to A distinctive programme

  1. The OED doesn’t give much support for the notion that a “thing” must be tangible.

  2. Oh, I do that too. I more or less assumed it was standard for literate Britophone nerds.

  3. sjhoward says:

    I agree completely, and maintain the same distinction in my writing. Maybe Des is right, and it is standard usage?

  4. Paul Wright says:

    The program/programme distinction is recommended in the “The Complete Plain Words”, as Gowers thinks it’s useful.

  5. Program/programme is BrE distinction. In AmE, it’s always program, in my experience.

    SOED confirms the Gowers distinction, but again as a BrE matter.

    When I (an AmE speaker) encounter ‘programme’, I tend to think of it in Andrew’s sense of strategy, or planne of action.

  6. Rupert says:

    I’d get with the program, me – but does ‘am’ end in ‘me’, or ‘me’ in ‘am’?

  7. H. E. Baber says:

    Y’know in my dialect of Amerenglish we distinguish “route” pronounced “rowt” and route pronounced “root”? A root is a highway or, by extension, one’s traversing such. A rowt is a more fluid sort of thing, like a programme as distinct from a program, that doesn’t depend on a clearly demarcated road or path–the course one takes to accomplish a goal and do what needs to be done along the way. So, there’s Root 66, the root I took to the Pasadena Hilton, and then there are paper rowts, milk rowts, and the like.

    Some sez one and some sez t’other but from where I come back east, we make the distinction.

  8. acb says:

    That’s interesting, H. I hope it will help me make myself understood to memebers of the Soprano family. The only “rowt” usage I have come across was in a Dwight Yoakam song, where his family learned “reading, writing, and rowt 22”. It took me a long time to work out what he was saying. But his is the opposite (Californian?) usage to yours.

    Rupert: It’s all about me, isn’t it?

    Jonathan: probably not. I don’t use the word in everyday life as if it had to be tangible, but I was posting on pedantry, and that’s a different kettle of fish.

  9. H. E. Baber says:

    Yoakam would say “rowt” all the time. “Rowt” was probably the dominant AmE folk usage until the gov’ment started building highways and calling them “root” 22. Then some of we folk picked up “root” for highways and highway travel but kept paper rowts and milk rowts. That’s the same phenomenon you note: “program” for computer application came in from US usage but you keep “programme” for the more general concept.

    Happens all the time. My dialect distinguishes “ant” and “aunt” but, after decades of TV advertising, I do say “Ant Jemima pancake mix” rather than “Awnt Jemima.” Even Frank Zappa, from Baltimore where they make the distinction, sang about “Electric Ant Jemima.”

    Mass media and internationalization doesn’t kill regional accents (you should hear my relatives–arrrrrrrrrrrr) but adds new words and precisified concepts.

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