Q&A: Mould vs mold

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Each week here at the Australian Writers’ Centre, we dissect and discuss, contort and retort, ask and gasp at the English language and all its rules, regulations and ridiculousness. It’s a celebration of language, masquerading as a passive-aggressive whinge about words and weirdness. This week we’re breaking the mouldy mold…

Q: Hi AWC – I’m getting a new bathroom put in at the moment because of mould.

A: Oh no – what kind?

Q: Tiles, taps, a bath, shower, mirror – the usual. Oh, and a toilet too.

A: We meant what kind of mould.

Q: Oh. The black kind that kills you eventually.

A: Ah, okay. Fair enough.

Q: But I have a question. You see, I asked for a bathtub like the ones they have on those renovation shows.

A: So you mean one that’s paid for by sponsors and installed by unpaid tradies while racing the clock?

Q: Um, no, I meant freestanding.

A: Ah yes, of course. Do go on.

Q: Anyway, I was emailing my friend, asking whether a special “mold” was used to make my particular bathtub. And you’ll never guess what they replied with.

A: Ummm… did they reply with an email also?

Q: Well, yes. I meant– never mind. They replied that it wasn’t spelt “mold”. I always thought the two meanings had two different spellings, but now I’m confused.

A: You’re right that there are two main meanings. A form or shape (which is also seen as a verb – to shape or form something) and the name for that hard to remove fungi.

Q: Randall.

A: Sorry?

Q: Randall – he was the hard to remove fun guy at my last job. He was always pranking the boss, but she couldn’t fire him.

A: So he’s still there?

Q: No, he finally got caught stealing stationary supplies.

A: Don’t you mean stationery with an E?

Q: Nope, he was caught stealing the stationary bikes from the office gym.

A: Um. Shall we continue?

Q: Yes. So, multiple meanings – but which one is spelt “mould”?

A: All of them. In Australia, Britain, New Zealand and mostly Canada – EVERYTHING – be it a verb, a noun, fungi or something you make bathtubs out of – is spelt “mould”.

Q: Really? Every meaning?

A: Yes.

Q: So does that mean “mold” is for everything in America?

A: Correct. Just like “color”, they dropped the “u” and everything in the US became “mold”.

Q: I bet they used “mould” killer!

A: Hilarious.

Q: Thanks. So, the same goes for “mouldy” and “moulding” etc?

A: Yep. In America, their bread goes moldy and they use molding clay.

Q: They use molding clay instead of bread??

A: No, we meant– oh never mind.

Q: And you said Canada “mostly” uses the British option?

A: Well, they’re right over the border, so they’ve kind of ended up with a mix of the two.

Q: But here in Australia, go with “mould” for anything in that mould?

A: Yes. Some may say that the “Americanization” (with a Z!) of the planet is spreading like a “mold” to words like this. But for now, it’s still safe to mould and shape your sentences with “mould” for everything. Be consistent!

Q: So in America, they talk about leaders in the mold of Obama and here we speak of leaders in the mould of Kevin Rudd.

A: The mould of Kevin Rudd has a nice ring to it.

Q: Well at least I know I’m dealing with the same “mould” in my new bathroom now.

A: Indeed.

Q: I must get in touch with Randall – he was such a fun guy.

A: What’s he doing now?

Q: Last I heard he’d gone into business with another old workplace prankster, fun Gus.

A: Joke shop?

Q: No actually. They sell mushrooms. And stationary bikes.

If you have a grammar gripe or punctuation puzzle that you’d like our Q&A to explore, email it to us today!

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