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I came across this little dilemma when looking up the incorrectly spelled word "chequing" in my web browser's dictionary (Opera). According to the different dictionaries you can select in Opera:

EN US is "Checking" (Which I knew)

EN GB and EN ZA is "Chequeing" (Which looks really strange to me)

Here in Canada I've always seen and used "Chequing", which I actually thought was the GB version.

Example of BBC using "chequeing": http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/3242776.stm

So how many versions are there? Which is technically the right version for Canada and Great Britain?

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I’ve never come across chequeing account or chequing account in the UK. We call it a current account, or maybe cheque account or cheque book account. Wikipedia has more. –  Brian Nixon Mar 17 '11 at 20:04
    
@Brian Nixon: That Wikipedia article has "chequing account" all through it. –  Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Mar 17 '11 at 21:06
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That BBC headline is a pun on the phrase “checking out” in relation to the use of cheques, not an ordinary British English use of the work chequeing. –  Brian Nixon Mar 17 '11 at 22:45
    
"Technically" nothing is the right version for anywhere, because there is no ultimate reference such as is implied by the word "technically". –  Colin Fine Dec 5 '11 at 12:45

4 Answers 4

up vote 17 down vote accepted

This terminology dates back to the Anglo-Norman Kings who, having conquered Saxon England, started collecting taxes methodically, of which The Domesday Book is a famous example. For accounting, they were using a large board with rows and columns not unlike a chessboard, or un échiquier in French (from Persian origin, imported via Latin).

The person responsible for this task was therefore named Chancellor of the Exchequer. He or she had to verify that the numbers indeed matched expectations. From this exercise also comes the verb to check.

In the meantime, the European banking system started using bills of exchange to credit and debit accounts between branches in various cities on behalf of their customers. Lombard Street in London was famous for this, but they were far from the only ones. This allowed for only paper to be transported, which was both safer and easier.

From 1745 onwards, the Bank of England exclusively had the right of printing money au porteur (payable to the bearer). This happened much later in the US, when the Federal Reserve was instituted. Private bankers who could therefore not emit their own banknotes any more had to resort to a different type of bill that had to be "checked" because they were nominative.

The word check then went back to France, when they imported the concept, and they spelled it chèque and sometimes chècque.

The word then went back again to England as cheque, and only the US actually simplified it back to check.

It should therefore be:

  1. check in the US
  2. cheque in the UK, AU, ZA and Canada

As for "checking" vs "chequing" vs "chequeing", my understanding is as follows:

  • "Checking" accounts are used in the US,
  • both "chequing" and "chequeing" are accepted in Canada with a marked predominance for the former, although the latter is the correct original British English spelling.
  • Actually, in the UK you don't hold "chequeing" accounts, but "cheque" accounts, but this phrase is seldom used; "current account" (as opposed to savings account") is preferred. However, when the gerund is used it is spelled "chequeing" (this is disputed however, see Brian's comments below).
  • I'm told that in Australia, "cheque account" is used and "chequeing" is rare (comments below from staticsan).

Another famous "ping-pong"-type etymology between French and English is

"taster" (to grope for testing purposes) => "to taste" => "tester" (to try) => "to test"

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Wow, that was surprisingly interesting. I appreciate all that effort but that doesn't answer my question. I'm specifically referring to the "-ing" version of the word. I have found examples of 3 versions. Added references to the original question. –  Vian Esterhuizen Mar 17 '11 at 22:07
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@Vian Esterhuizen, looks like I got carried away with etymological stuff. I updated my answer to address the original question. –  Alain Pannetier Φ Mar 17 '11 at 22:59
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Just to repeat @Brian Nixon's point, in the UK, we almost never say a "cheque" account, such an account is called a current account. –  Orbling Mar 18 '11 at 0:18
    
That Economist article just looks badly copy-edited to me. It’s clearly written for a U.S. audience, so not really applicable to British English usage, and is inconsistent in its use of chequeing vs. checking. –  Brian Nixon Mar 18 '11 at 1:18
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As long as you're going off on a tangent… a confusion between "test" and "taste" led to the discovery of sucralose. –  200_success Aug 28 '13 at 9:40

I just took a tour of some Canadian banking sites. Easy enough since we have so few.

  • Scotiabank offers Chequing accounts
  • CIBC offers Chequing accounts
  • TD made me drill around a bit and look under Canada Trust, but they too offer Chequing accounts. (Their American division offers Checking accounts)
  • Bank of Montreal offers Chequing accounts
  • Royal Bank, just to be different, offers "Banking and Saving" accounts although some of its "banking accounts" come "with chequing privileges"

Bottom line: the Canadian spelling is chequing. I knew that, but wanted to prove it a little.

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And if you dig a bit deeper, I believe you will see those accounts described as current accounts, but only in a descriptive sense; the names are as you note above. –  Pieter Geerkens Sep 4 '13 at 3:30

I think the question makes an incorrect assumption: namely that cheque is a verb in British English. It's not listed as such in the Oxford, Collins or Cambridge dictionaries, and there's no instance of it as a verb in the British National Corpus.

So it doesn't matter whether you spell it as *chequing or *chequeing: either way, British English speakers will assume you're an American trying to use British spelling and failing to take into account that the spelling isn't the only difference. (Given @KateGregory's comments about Canadian English, it's apparent that this wouldn't necessarily be a correct assumption, but that's a separate issue).

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"cheque is a verb in British English." Interesting. Thank you for that. –  Vian Esterhuizen Dec 5 '11 at 17:03
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@VianEsterhuizen, no, cheque is not a verb in British English. That's the point. –  Peter Taylor Dec 5 '11 at 17:10
    
Sorry, I quoted that incorrectly. I just quoted the last part but I meant the whole sentence was interesting. Anyway, thanks for clearing that up. –  Vian Esterhuizen Dec 5 '11 at 17:21

If for no other reason, I use "chequing account" instead of "checking account" when corresponding with my American bankers to avoid redundance of the two identically pronounced words "cheque" and "check", which, when spoken, could be ambiguous. For example: "Please, check check No. 396.", etc. If, instead, one use the distinctive form "Please, check cheque No. 396.", the reader hasn't any reason for misunderstanding and will know right away which word is the verb and which one is the noun.

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This introduces the problem of deciding if all British (or Canadian etc) usages are 'allowable' in the US, and vice versa. In this case, I think I'd use your method too. –  Edwin Ashworth Aug 11 at 19:04

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