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In my personal usage, the words "analog" and "analogue" are allocated to two different meanings of the word.

One refers specifically to non-digital signals, for example:

The analog clock reads 5:37.

The phonograph only works with analog signals.

While the other is used in the sense of reference to another material:

The remotely activated webcams built in to laptops are a chilling analogue to the telescreens in George Orwell's 1984.

I have a similar split between "dialog" and "dialogue", which refer specifically to a message window on a computer GUI and spoken conversation respectively.

However, in all the language packs for software that I've ever encountered, the words will always exclusively be analog and dialog or analogue and dialogue, for American and British English respectively. Similarly, when I see most people type these words, they will usually use "dialog" to refer to spoken conversation and be American, or use "dialogue" for the message window and be British.

My question is, is this analog/analogue split a regional variation in Canadian spelling, or is it just something I've picked up personally? Does anyone else, or any other group of people, make this distinction?

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    I think it's just you. I had a similar impression about 'disoriented' versus 'disorientated'... english.stackexchange.com/questions/204767/… There should be a word for this effect, whereby a particular regional spelling variation is used more often in a particular context. – A E Nov 7 '14 at 19:17
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    Coming from a Computer Science background, the distinction between "analog/analogue" is known to me, but I haven't noticed "dialog/dialogue" ever. – BlackVegetable Nov 7 '14 at 19:17
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    Dialog does not only refer to computers. It also refers to spoken conversations. The two are just alternate spellings. I assume the same is for analog, which I have seen spelled analogue for electrical stuff in the past, particularly in BrE. – Oldcat Nov 7 '14 at 19:18
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    It may or may not be regional or Canadian, but it's just a variation in spelling, not a variation in meaning. Spelling variation is normal and does not indicate anything except that different people prefer different spellings. – John Lawler in exile Nov 7 '14 at 19:20
  • @Oldcat I know "dialog" is used to refer to conversation in American English. I'm asking whether the decision not to do so is regionally inherent somewhere. – Joe Z. Nov 7 '14 at 19:21
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Dialog vs dialogue and analog vs analogue are simply spelling differences, and are not recognized in any major dictionary (that I was able to find) as having distinct definitions.

Technological vocabulary, specifically related to electrical and computer engineering, prefers the shorter forms, and because of this we are seeing those forms being adopted in places where the more traditional form would otherwise be preferred.

My guess is that this is similar to the distinction drawn between theater and theatre, where some American speakers in the theater community treat the words as being distinct, though no formalized or widely recognized distinction exists.

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    Speaking of theater and theatre, the words center and centre are also used as "midpoint" and "building/place" respectively. – Joe Z. Nov 7 '14 at 21:22
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    Similarly, nearly everybody programs computers, even though programme is the standard spelling in the U.K. – Peter Shor Nov 7 '14 at 21:26
  • @JoeZ., actually, center vs centre is exactly like theater vs theater. Some people make the distinction, but it is not widely know or formally recognized: grammarist.com/spelling/center-centre – Nick2253 Nov 7 '14 at 23:55
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    Obviously if you have "shoppes" they're at a "shopping centre", though, not a "shopping center". – Hot Licks Nov 8 '14 at 1:09
  • @PeterShor: True, although that's a slightly different case (IMHO), because "program" is being used as a verb. OTOH, it would be very unusual to see "computer programme"; I suppose "program" in the computer sense has become a jargon word, and the spelling standardised in that context. Perhaps "dialogue / dialog" will suffer the same fate. I prefer "dialogue" in normal writing, but of course I have to use "dialog" when writing GUI code, and it's silly (and confusing) to use "dialog" in the active code but "dialogue" in the program's comments. :) – PM 2Ring Nov 8 '14 at 4:23
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While many on both sides of the Atlantic don't make a distinction for the context, you're certainly not alone in making that distinction. For example, see http://grammarist.com/spelling/analog-analogue/

As a fellow Canadian, I have to make decisions about when to use British and when to use US spellings, due to the fact that we're relatively free to choose, aren't we. As a result, I/we probably come across these distinctions more often than people who don't check because they feel bound by their national spelling. I like it, and find it useful, when such differences can be used to distinguish meanings or contexts. Why not preserve the nuances, I say! So, yes, preserve the distinction.

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  • Could not agree more. Nuances are important for expression, also I think there is a distinction between what is technically correct and what is merely accepted, therefore I believe this should be the accepted answer.I am, however, just a Brit stuck in his ways. – Sworrub Wehttam Jan 18 '17 at 13:53
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Some words come from the French and have changed spelling when passing into the English language, sometimes in the States and not in Britain, e.g. center (USA) and centre (British and French). This is the same for analogue which is a French word that has the same meaning in French and English

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