The study of words fascinates me. I find language intriguing, especially the English language as it is used in Britain and America. Words evolve, move in and out of culture, and illustrate our history. Earlier, I explained that words like candy and diaper, once uniquely British, fell out of style in Britain and became everyday language in America. We use many common words, but we spell them differently; just enough to cause confusion.
We can thank Noah Webster for that! He changed the spellings of many English words when he published the first American dictionary. “He wanted very much for this budding new nation to have its own language,” says Kory Stamper, whose Merriam-Webster Dictionary is the modern-day version of Webster’s work. Webster introduced distinctive spellings of common words: honor for honour, color for colour, defense for defence, and center for centre. “He thought spellings were needlessly complicated, and tried to simplify them.” I think he made them more confusing. Sometimes, I’ve come across a word with an ize/ise suffix and wondered whether it was a typo. Thankfully, Webster was only partially successful; women did not become wimmen, and tongue is preferable to tung.
English with all it’s grammar rules and the exceptions to those rules, is hard enough, but differentiating between British English and American English spellings can be confusing: re or er as in litre or liter; our or or as in humour or humor; ise or ize as in apologise or apologize; yse or yze as in paralyse or paralyze; ence or ense for license or license. Verbs ending in a vowel double the vowel in words like travelled, British, or American, traveled. The really tricky ones are double vowels; ae or oe are spelled with an e like paediatric, but Americans drop the a in favor of pediatric.
Spelling can be very confusing when the issue is nationality. I love Britain! I consider myself an expat even though my family has been here since the 1600’s. In my American vernacular, homely describes someone who is unattractive, not a warm person who makes you feel at home. I feel at home in Britain, so I guess that makes me homely. And, I’m okay with that!