Grammar 101 with Michael Kwan

Earlier this week, the CBC reported that Ottawa “will vigorously lobby against” the proposal put forth by the United States Department of Homeland Security to levy a fee for every vehicle or pedestrian that crosses a land border into the country. This would be true both at the Canada-US border and the Mexico-US border, charging travelers a “border fee” to recoup costs associated with running and protecting these land border crossings.

And so, a good number of netizens took to the social media channels to chime in the on the issue. Unfortunately, so many of them wrote about opposing a “boarder fee” and that they may choose simply not to “cross the boarder” as often to go shopping. And they’d be incorrect to say that, because “boarder” and “border” are not the same word. Just as canvas and canvass are pronounced the same but have different meanings, the same is true of “boarder” and “border.”

Boarders without Borders

A border is a line that separates two areas. For instance, the US-Canada border is the political boundary that separates the two countries from one another. There are borders between cities, between provinces, between districts, and so forth. If you want to skip the wait at the border, you might consider getting a NEXUS pass. The border between North and South Korea continues to be an area of anxiety and conflict. A border is a boundary or edge.

You might also talk about the border on a picture, as would be the case with several Instagram filters. That would be the outer edging of the photo and it could have some sort of fancy style to it. Border can also be used as a verb: The farm property is bordered by an old growth forest.

A boarder, on the other hand, can be used in the context of describing people who ride skateboards, snowboards, surfboards and other types of boarders. It would be a shortened version of the longer word, with skateboarder becoming boarder, snowboarder becoming boarder, and so forth. A boarder is a person.

The term is also used in the context of housing. If a school says that it provides its students with “room and board,” that would mean that the students are receiving lodging and regular meals while staying there. The “room” is the lodging or housing, whereas the “board” refers to the food he or she receives.

This is exactly the context from which we get boarding schools, because unlike more conventional public schools where the students live in their own respective homes, the students at boarding schools effectively live at the school for the duration of their studies.

Crossing a Boarder

In this way, it might not be terribly inaccurate to refer to a “boarder fee,” but only if you are referring to a fee paid in exchange of housing and meals, rather than a fee levied by the government for crossing from one country into another. If you “cross a boarder,” that doesn’t mean that you are driving from Canada to the United States; it could mean that you angered a person who snowboards (or someone who attends a boarding school).

I hope this post didn’t make you bored; I hope it is well-received across the board.