anti-clockwise and counter-clockwisebut I went with (BrE) anti-clockwise and (AmE) counterclockwise because, as we've seen before, Americans are a bit more apt to close up prefixed words when given the chance to.
anticlockwise and counter-clockwise
anticlockwise and counterclockwise
@jaynefox requested this one as a Twitter 'Difference of the Day', but since it's been a month since my last post (shock! horror! marking/grading!), I'm easing myself back into blogging with something that can't get too out-of-hand, I hope.
So why do we have different words for going in a circle as if going backward(s) on a clock? The earliest instance of clockwise in the OED is from 1888 (and it's clock-wise, adding all sorts of hyphenation possibilities). This tells us that its opposite is a good bet for transatlantic differences: the British colonists could not have taken it to America, so each nation was free to come up with its own version. It's not so clear that their origins really were in different countries, though.
The OED's first instance of counter-clockwise is in the same quote as the clock-wise one, from the Times (of London). Their first for anti-clockwise is from 1898. But should we trust the OED on this one? Probably not. These entries have not been updated in a long, long time and the OED's use of American sources was pretty limited in the early years.
Merriam-Webster has a first attestation date of 1879 for anticlockwise, but doesn't give the source. Its counter-clockwise date is also 1888.
So, I've turned to Google Books. Do you know what? Google Books is a pain. Search for counterclockwise in 19th century books, and you'll find that a lot of books that Google Books thinks were published in the 19th century weren't. So, searching 12 pages into the results, I've found a few cases of counter(-)clock(-)wise antedating:
- 1882 in Uniplanar Kinematics of Solids and Fluids by George Minchin, an Irish-born scientist in London.
- 1882 in The Civil Engineer's Reference-book by Pennsylvanian John Trautwine
- 1883 in Pamphlets on Biology (can't tell where it's published)
So, anti-clockwise is looking mostly British, but counterclockwise seems to have been used in England as early as it was being used in the US. No obvious first coinage here, so we can't tell a tale of different national origins. All we can say is that anti-clockwise never caught on in the US, and counterclockwise quickly fell out of favo(u)r in the UK.
Oh, I suppose I can't leave without saying something about pronunciation. In BrE the second syllable of anti-clockwise is pronounced like tea. Americans often (but not always) pronounce anti- with a second syllable like tie, which can help in distinguishing it from ante-. Some discussion of the variation in AmE pronunciation of anti- can be found here. For me, it's partly on a word-by-word basis: 'tea' in anticlimax, but 'tie' in anti-Communist. I think if I form a new word with it (say, if I'm anti-pigeon), I'd pretty regularly use 'tie'. But that's what I think. And we're all pretty bad rememberers of what we do say and we're often bad judges of what we would say. So, unless someone records me unawares saying antipigeon, we may never know...