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Can you answer these questions?

  • A lot of American spellings have fewer letters, why?
  • Do you know why Americans changed British spellings?
  • What year was the first American dictionary published?
    (Answers in the video or read on)

    There are a few important spelling differences between American and British words that you should be aware of, especially if your spellcheck on your computer is set to the American dictionary.

    It seems crazy but a lot of computers at British colleges are not automatically set to the British English dictionary default. So be careful and change that dictionary setting to the UK dictionary setting.

    So why are there differences?
    The differences all started with Noah Webster.skitched-20120216-190634

    With the Declaration of Independence in 1776 Americans wanted to proclaim their differences from Britain and one way was to reform spelling. Noah Webster led the way.

    But his radical proposals had little support and in the end the spelling reforms were moderate in comparison to what he wanted. 

    The spelling reforms weren’t strongly supported by academics and linguists, maybe because with a lot of English spelling you see the etymology (the history) in the word which they didn't want destroyed.

    He managed to simplify quite a few words though.

    British to American

    -our  to -or  - colour to color

    -re to -er - centre to center -

    -ise to -ize  - realise to realize

    -yse to -yze  - analyse to analyse

    -ogue to -og or -ogue   - dialogue to dialogue or dialog

    -enc to -ense - -defence to defense

    No doubling of the final l – travelling to traveling

    In most cases American words have fewer letters -

    US -       British
    licorice - liquorice
    program - programme
    maneuver - manoeuvre
    plow - plough
    sulfur - sulphur
    specialty - speciality
    naught - nought
    skeptic - sceptic
    vial - phial
    whiskey - whisky

    Do you know the British spellings of these American spellings:  

    write a check
    roadside curb


    US - write a check
    Br - cheque

    Am - cozy
    Br - cosy

    Am - donut
    Br - doughnut

    Am - roadside curb
    Br- kerb

    Am - mustache
    Br - moustache

    Am - omelet
    Br - omelette

    Am - pajamas
    Br - pyjamas

    Am - tire
    Br - tyre

    Am - gray
    Br - grey

    Am - yogurt
    Br - yoghurt

    Watch this short video for revision