The case of the missing “u”s in American English

When my American editor asked me to research why Brits spell their words with so many extra ‘u’s, I immediately knew he had it all wrong. As a British journalist, it’s perfectly obvious to me that we have the correct amount of ‘u’s, and that American spelling has lost its vowels along the way.

“Color,” “honor,” and “favor” all look quite stubby to me—they’re positively crying out to be adorned with a few extra ‘u’s.

But it turns out that the “o(u)r” suffix has quite a confused history. The Online Etymology Dictionary reports that –our comes from old French while –or is Latin. English has used both endings for several centuries. Indeed, the first three folios of Shakespeare’s plays reportedly used both spellings equally.

But by the late 18th and early 19th centuries, both the US and the UK started to solidify their preferences, and did so differently.

Read more: Quartz

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