WHy do we spell them differently: UK vs. USA

Organize vs. Organise
Color vs Colour
Aluminum vs Aluminium
Fetus vs Foetus

And countless others. But why? Why do we spell them differently? I ask because I presume at some point we spelled them the same.

I believe it was Noah Webster’s idea. He was a spelling “reform” advocate and a major textbook publisher, so he had a wide influence in America.

Check out Mencken’s “The American Language” at the following link, especially Chapter VIII.

Apparently, in the case of Alumin(i)um, it was Britain that made the change (or probably actually just settled on one variant later than everybody else) - we used to call it Aluminum too.

There was also a spelling reform movement in the US while Teddy Roosevelt was president, eliminating “gaol” and “manoever.”

And, no, we probably never spelled the same. Spelling was never standardized until after the American Revolution. Of course, two Britons wouldn’t necessarily spell the same, either.

RealityChuck: If Lewis and Clark are anything to go by, Americans of the early 1800s weren’t hot on standardized spelling either. They had dozens (Stephen Ambrose counts 26) of ways to spell ‘mosquito’ and weren’t shy about using two or three of them on the same page (that is, within easy visibility of each other). But that was still people of the Revolutionary Generation.

I suppose spelling would have been evened out by mass access to printed material (books, newspapers, etc.) just like dialect is evened out by mass access to sound recordings/broadcasts. Maybe the McGuffey Readers (first one published 1836) formed an important part of this effort.

It was a Brit who named it Alumium (1807), and Aluminum and Aluminium(1812). But since it only took him five years to settle on the proper spelling, and his colleagues, who hadn’t flunked latin,* prefered Aluminium right from the start I don’t think it’s all that relevant. Especially considering Aluminium was the form in American dictionaries for all of the 19th century.

(Warning, follow link and read whole article for all the facts.)

*I have no knowledge of the actuall provess in latin of any of the parties involved, I’m just making a lousy joke.

Another difference is the Brits have retained the (n) advice/ (v) advise pattern in other cases. I can’t recall a particular example with certainty, but I remember that both words were pronounced the same. Another little trap laid for the American ESL teacher using materials from the UK.

They’re pronounced differently - ‘advise’ = ad-vyz. Practise/Practice is an example where they sound the same.

If you ask me we could use a lot more spelling reform.

The novel Moby Dick is a spelling treat, too.