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TikToker explains why Americans spell some words without 'U' unlike British English users

While these subtle differences have puzzled people for ages, not many are aware that they can be traced back to one single man: Noah Webster.

TikToker explains why Americans spell some words without 'U' unlike British English users
Cover Image Source: TikTok/mjj.1992

Editor's note: This article was originally published on May 26, 2021. It has since been updated.
 
Most English speakers will be aware that when it comes to spelling, American English users and British English users follow different paths. From "flavor" vs "flavour," "color" vs "colour," "organize" vs "organise, and "center" vs "centre," the examples are plenty. While these subtle but sometimes infuriating differences have puzzled people for ages, not many are aware that these quirks of American spelling can be traced back to one single man and his quest to make spelling words a bit easier: Noah Webster. Yep, the one responsible for Webster's dictionary.



 

One TikTok user recently took to the platform to educate users about this little historical tidbit. User mjj.1992, a teacher from Australia, broached the subject as part of a running series brilliantly named "Things I teach children I think adults would froth," with "froth" being an Australian slang used to describe being really excited over something. MJ began by admitting that, growing up, he never knew why Australians and Americans spelled the word "color" differently. He later came to learn that it all comes down to Mr. Webster who merely wanted to simplify English words in such a way that their spellings somewhat matched what they sound like when said out loud.

Image Source: TikTok/mjj.1992

 

Image Source: TikTok/mjj.1992

 

Image Source: TikTok/mjj.1992

 

Image Source: TikTok/mjj.1992

According to Business Insider, sometime in the late 1700s, Webster took issue with some of the inconsistencies of British spelling which were proving to be a challenge for American students learning the language. To solve this issue, he pretty much began hacking away at the traditional spellings of some words and re-writing them so that they were spelled phonetically. He proposed several reforms to English spelling in his first dictionary in 1806, including dropping the use of double letters in past-tense verbs like "traveled" and replacing "masque" with the more straightforward "mask."

Image Source: TikTok/mjj.1992

 

Image Source: TikTok/mjj.1992

"Colour" became "color," "centre" became center," "gaol became jail," and so on. Although many of the reforms he proposed had already existed as alternative spellings at the time, Webster's seal of approval acted as the catalyst that allowed them to catch on in the United States. 

Image Source: TikTok/mjj.1992

However, American English speakers also decided they could do without some of Webster's proposed changes. Despite his best efforts, they resisted turning "soup" into "soop," "machine" into "masheen," "daughter" into "dawter," "tongue" into "tung," and "women" into "wimmin." Thank heavens for that!

Image Source: TikTok/mjj.1992

 

Image Source: TikTok/mjj.1992

Here are some more of Webster's suggestions that didn't make the cut:

1. Cloke — cloak

2. Greef — grief

3. Korus — chorus

4. Nightmar — nightmare

5. Turnep — turnip

6. Iland — island

7. Porpess — porpoise

8. Steddy — steady

9. Hainous — heinous

10. Thum — thumb

11. Gillotin — guillotine

12. Spunge — sponge

13. Ake — ache

14. Determin — determine

15. Giv — give

16. Bilt — built

17. Beleev — believe

18. Grotesk — grotesque

19. Stile — style

20. Neer — near

21. Sley — sleigh

Funny how some of these have made a comeback in this age of texting, isn't it? 

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