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As an American, I was never shocked to see the word "center" spelled as "centre." It didn't bother me at all. Honestly.

But then I saw the participle of it spelled as "centring" as opposed to "centering," and it really made me reconsider the whole thing. Do UK (and Australian, New Zealand, etc.) speakers pronounce it similarly to US speakers (three syllables)? Do you guys ever spell it "centering?" Do you find the US spelling as weird as we find the UK spelling? Does it make you uncomfortable in a way you can't fully understand?

Also, I see that my Chrome spell check is equally thrown off by the UK spelling. Is your browser's spell check disgusted by the US spelling?

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  • As I'm British but have to write in US English sometimes, yes it does feel weird, though possibly not as badly as all the -ise/-ize differences (I know some are acceptable in English especially according to Oxford, but they're not common) – Chris H Nov 27 '13 at 10:13
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    Do you pronounce labeling differently from cabling and tabling? – Peter Shor Nov 27 '13 at 12:00
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    @Peter I think I do sometimes pronounce labeling slightly differently from cabling. 2.9 syllables - maybe close to what Andrew is describing. Or maybe no one can hear the difference in pronunciation, but the words feel different to me. – The Phil Lee Nov 27 '13 at 16:32
  • @PeterShor, maybe marginally, but I spell it labelling! – Chris H Nov 27 '13 at 17:03
  • @ChrisH: I believe -ize is the older English suffix and -ise came from French and became prevalent in British English. – Tim Down Nov 17 '15 at 10:11
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British English doesn't use the spelling centering; it’s always centring.

As to pronunciation, it’s two syllables, or maybe two-and-a-half with the hint of a schwa, /ˈsɛntriŋ/ /ˈsɛntᵊriŋ/.

Spelling the word with a third syllable looks odd because we don’t spell it that way and we don’t say it that way either. Spelling and pronunciation are linked, but it’s a bit chicken-and-egg. As the “British” spelling comes from French and the American comes from Webster, it‘s highly likely that the pronunciation of centring/centering follows from the spelling.

My British-dictionary browser objects to centering.

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    Do you pronounce centring differently from entering? – Peter Shor Nov 27 '13 at 12:05
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    /ˈɛntᵊriŋ/. Centring can definitely be shorter. – Andrew Leach Nov 27 '13 at 12:42
  • @PeterShor, certainly, centring, like centration (which firefox doesn't like) doesn't even have the hint of a vowel between the t and the r round here, while entering is 3 clear syllables. – Chris H Nov 27 '13 at 17:02
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    That's funny. I'm American, and I use the pronunciation entring more often than not. – Peter Shor Nov 28 '13 at 14:00
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    @user146434: Let me say that I am proud to pronounce entering with the same number of syllables as Shakespeare used. None of the iambic pentameter lines where he used entering scans if you pronounce it with three syllables. For example: The generous and gravest citizens // Have hent the gates, and very near upon // The duke is entering: therefore, hence, away! – Peter Shor Dec 21 '15 at 23:21
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I agree that 'centring' sounds weird! I say it as though it's spelled 'centering' and I found myself on this site checking the word as I didn't think it was right. Sometimes the English version is not as good as the American one. And I'm English! I refuse to use 'centring' so am forced to use 'centred on' instead. How annoying.. ;)

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