Color Versus Colour

To spell like the British or to spell like the Americans? That is the question.Or is it?What’s the difference between color and colour you ask? Culture and continents. Much like our metric versus imperial measurements the United States does things a touch differently with the word color. They are the one of a small handful of continents and countries to use the spelling of color. Every other country, for the most part, accepts colour as the variation in spelling of the word. However, most countries that accept colour also accept color (colorful ain’t it?). There are other words like color, for example:

  • humor and humour
  • defence and defense
  • fiber and fibre

The historical reasoning for this is because both Latin and French introduced it into the English language through England. In fact, since 1828 the dual spelling variations have been acceptable in most countries, including America until… Noah Webster Jr. Yes, yes THAT Webster. As in, The Webster Dictionary. It’s because of a man’s personal preferences that Americans spell their words the way they do. Amazing how one person can change the history and course of, for intents and purposes, a dialect of the English language.

Before 1828, many words, such as humor (or humour), defense (or defence) and fiber (or fibre), had two acceptable spellings on both sides of the pond, because they were introduced in England via both Latin and French, which used different spellings. Webster picked his preferred forms (the former ones in each example above), justifying his choices in various ways, but partly on nationalist grounds: he wanted American spelling to be distinct from, and (in his opinion) superior to, British spelling. [Why Can’t Germans Pronounce ‘Squirrel’?]”Since the book was successful in establishing its authority throughout the States, [Webster’s spelling variants] have been generally recognized as American forms,” Scragg writes. “In that sense Webster was the first to differentiate between British and American usage, and in that it was frequently he who chose the variant of two spellings in early nineteenth-century use which have subsequently been preferred in the United States, he can be said to have influenced the development of spelling. He is in a way ‘responsible’ for such forms as center, color and defense.”

Natalie Wolchover –

As you can see, Mr. Webster had quite the influence on how our various dialects of English have evolved to what it is today. The next time you see someone spell colour a little differently than that all famous Websterite color – just remember the English language has a colorful history.

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