Labour Day in Australia: May Day 2012

Today, in Queensland, it is Labour Day, as in May Day 2012…..

Labour Day 2012… and therefore a bank holiday Monday. So we have all got the day off; today is a day to chill.

But I can’t! Something is bugging me!

It’s been bugging me for six days now, ever since I wrote my post Australia’s Labor Politicians: Grey Clouds Are Gathering.

I’m sure you can now see what it is.

As an Englishman originally from England, I have always spelt labour like this….


But I have also always been aware that in the USA, labour is spelt like this…


Fair enough, each to his own, no worries. Except I always thought that the Australian spelling remained the same as the UK spelling; labour.

Until I wrote that post about the Australian Labor Party, in which “Labour” is always spelt “Labor”. As in…

ALPBut then today pops up, Labour Day, and everyone is spelling it as “labour” again. As in….

Labour DaySo why is labour spelt like labour in Australia but the Labour in the Australian Labor Party is spelt how they would spell it in the USA as in Labor?

I am very confused. If anyone knows the answer, please let me know in the comments below.

Happy Labor Labour Day!

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{ 10 comments… add one }
  • Rupert May 8, 2012, 6:01 pm |

    The sooner the Aussies put the ‘u’ back in and stop pretending to be Americans the better.

    Next week… we discuss the three simple uses of ‘there’, ‘their’ and ‘they’re’.

    • BobinOz May 8, 2012, 10:06 pm |

      I think it’s up to the Queen to sort it out. What else does she do?

  • Melinda May 8, 2012, 5:59 pm |

    From the Australian Labor Party website: “Labor or Labour?
    A common query from new members relates to the spelling of the word ‘Labor’. The records tell us that, in the early days, the ALP was known as both ‘Labor’ and ‘Labour’. The report of the party’s federal conference in 1902 was spelled ‘Labor’; in 1905 and 1908 ‘Labour’ and from 1912 ‘Labor’. This final change is thought to have reflected the influence of the then powerful United States labor movement, and especially the influence of Labor’s prominent American-born member King O’Malley. The change also happened to make it easier to distinguish references to the Party from the labour movement in general.”

    From what I can remember, Labour Day (Eight Hours Day in Tasmania & May Day in NT) is to commemorate the granting of an eight hour work day to Australians.

    • BobinOz May 8, 2012, 9:58 pm |

      Well, if it’s on the ALP website, I suspect you have given us the definitive answer. Thanks Melinda! It still seems strange to me though, that the word that refers to work is still spelt “labour”, yet the political party chooses “Labor”.

      Very, very strange.

      • Beate Grobe November 28, 2015, 8:08 pm |

        Here is the Explanation for Labour or Labor in Wikipedia

        Name changes[edit]
        The ALP adopted the formal name “Australian Labour Party” in 1908, but changed the spelling to “Labor” in 1912. While it is standard practice in Australian English both today and at the time to spell the word “labour” with a “u”, the party was influenced by the United States labor movement, and a prominent figure in the early history of the party, the American-born King O’Malley, was successful in having the spelling “modernised”.[14] The change also made it easier to distinguish references to the party from the labour movement in general.[15] (See also Spelling in Australian English.)

  • Nicky May 8, 2012, 5:37 pm |

    Hi Bob, I can’t answer your question but please could you answer mine: Do Australians pronounce Z ‘zed’ like us or ‘zee’ like the US? (I hope it’s the first!)

    • BobinOz May 8, 2012, 9:56 pm |

      I’m pretty sure it’s zed here, I would have noticed if anyone would have said zee. So I think you’ll be all right 🙂

  • Eike May 8, 2012, 5:06 pm |

    that’s actually a good question. wikipedia says,
    “The Australian Labor Party (also ALP and Labor, was Labour before 1912)…”

    • BobinOz May 8, 2012, 9:54 pm |

      I wonder what happened in 1912?

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