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Why did Americans change the spelling of common English words like colour, flavour and honour?
Over the last 10 years, I have increasingly been forced to spell common words incorrectly. This is most obvious when specifying a colour when using HTML or CSS, and being forced to type color instead.
There seems to be a trend for words that contain OU to be rewritten, removing the U from the spelling of the word. Honour, flavour, favourite etc, but leaving it for words such as flour and hour.
Why is this?
The answer is American Revolutionary patriotism. After the revolution, textbooks and dictionaries were still all being imported from London, A certain Noah Webster decided to compile a dictionary where the spellings reflected American pronunciation, and rationalised confusing spellings- eg., 'plow' for 'plough'.
The 'ou' in 'flour' and 'hour' is pronounced 'ow', but as 'awe' in 'honour' etc., so the 'awe' sounds were changed to 'o', as in 'honor'.
Languages of course change, and Webster's spellings have become historically phonetic, like those of British English. 'Plow', could be pronounced to rhyme with 'blow', for example.
Webster lobbied for his spellings to become standard, but without success in his lifetime. They were only adopted at, I think, the end of the 19th century, and Webster's Dictionary became the standard US reference work.
Computing terms (program etc) tend to follow the American lead.
Very good question, that interests me too, 01i. I'm also English and used to always be getting red marks on my English essays where I'd written "summarized" instead of "summarised" or something. I don't know if I can top Me Consule's answer :S but I can certainly try! A week or so ago I wrote two hubs which answer this question in a way. The first is "UK English and US English: What's the Difference?" and the second is "The Journey of English", in which I talk about English and its origins. It's hard to not just copy Me Consule's answer, but it IS all about American Revolutionary patriotism like he says!
In England, we spell and pronounce words differently than the US so when you are using HTML or CSS, they must be American programs and therefore use the American spelling. I have lived in America now for 14 years and had to make a lot of adjustments not just in spelling but in communicating the same words which have different meanings over here. I wrote a hub about these confusions which I will link here and hope you find it helpful: http://hubpages.com/hub/Excuse-me--do-you-speak-English
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