Social Question

blueberry_kid's avatar

Is there a reason why some people spell "color" and "favorite", "colour" and "favourite"?

Asked by blueberry_kid (5864points) August 6th, 2011

There isn’t much to explain, I just think it’s wierd.

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42 Answers

jrpowell's avatar

Their parents had sex in England.

JLeslie's avatar

As far as I know, only Americans, and countries who use American English as a second language, drop the u in these words. England, Canada, all the other English speaking countries I know of use the u. Not sure about Belize actually? There are other words spelled differently also. America organization, England organisation. I think judgment and judgement. All sorts of little differences.

ucme's avatar

Because we hail from a teeny weeny little island named England Town, you may have heard of it, just across the pond.

Seelix's avatar

In the early 18th century, English spelling was not standardised. Differences became noticeable after the publishing of influential dictionaries. Current British English spellings follow, for the most part, those of Samuel Johnson’s A Dictionary of the English Language (1755), whereas many American English spellings follow Noah Webster’s An American Dictionary of the English Language (1828).

Webster was a strong proponent of spelling reform for reasons both philological and nationalistic. Many spelling changes proposed in the United States by Webster himself, and in the early 20th century by the Simplified Spelling Board, never caught on. Among the advocates of spelling reform in England, the influences of those who preferred the Norman (or Anglo-French) spellings of certain words proved to be decisive. Subsequent spelling adjustments in the United Kingdom had little effect on present-day American spellings and vice-versa. In many cases, American English deviated in the 19th century from mainstream British spelling, but it has also retained some older forms.

The spelling systems of most Commonwealth countries and Ireland, for the most part, closely resemble the British system. In Canada, however, the preferred spellings include some American forms and some British, and Canadians are somewhat more tolerant of foreign forms.

From the Wikipedia article American and British English spelling differences.

For what it’s worth, aside from regional accents, pronunciation is the same.

stardust's avatar

“Colour” and “favourite” = the correct way to spell these words. Just saying!

JLeslie's avatar

@stardust it would be just another letter to type when I am texting. In a world that is moving towards shorthand and abbreviations, longer spellings are passé. LOL.

stardust's avatar

@JLeslie Nooooo! Abrevs are totes not the way 4ward!

Jellie's avatar

Also airplane and aeroplane…

El_Cadejo's avatar

Never understood the need for silent letters. Like seriously why even put them in there?

ragingloli's avatar

Yes. They were taught correct english.

zenvelo's avatar

@uberbatman Silent letters are used as a pronunciation key, i.e., hop vs hope. In the example @sarahhhhh gave, aero- was from Greek via French; the ae was an indication of a long a sound.

Jellie's avatar

@zenvelo I know… I was taught British English all through out school (also went to an English university). Very particular about my spellings.

Another pet peeve is my ms. office at work since it always underlines the word “judgement”

the100thmonkey's avatar

@sarahhhhh – change the default dictionary settings?

JLeslie's avatar

I agree the extra letters aid in pronounciation.

Jellie's avatar

@the100thmonkey I have done many times but everytime the computer restarts it is back to American English.

cazzie's avatar

Because we hold to the values of English English and don’t pander to the American spellings.

_zen_'s avatar

That’s what I was taught in my neighbourhood.

PhiNotPi's avatar

It is just regional spelling differences (on a global scale). English is not a standardized language. Both spellings are considered acceptable; however, you might want to use the one that your audience would use. It is still the same language.

MilkyWay's avatar

I ROFL for real when I read this question!!

Hibernate's avatar

I never understood which one is the correct one but I prefer coloUr because it sounds better for me.

The same goes for “a” and “an”. :)

blueberry_kid's avatar

@Hibernate—“a” and “an” is used for consonants and vowels at the begging of words.
An apple
A pear

ragingloli's avatar

or an hero

PhiNotPi's avatar

@Hibernate There is a grammatical distinction between “a” and “an”. They are considered two different words.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

@Seelix That was a superb answer!

martianspringtime's avatar

I do that purely out of habit, but I’m not sure where I picked the habit up. Maybe after reading a lot of British literature? Sometimes I try not to do it, but it feels and looks weird to me, even when Microsoft Word underlines it in red.

tranquilsea's avatar

I do it because I’m Canadian.

sliceswiththings's avatar

I’m American but for some reason I can’t shake the U from “behaviour” only. Weird.

Sunny2's avatar

Can anybody tell me why the English pronounce the h in herb and in the U.S. we don’t?

cazzie's avatar

I’m tired of people getting ‘historic’ and ‘historical’ wrong. And YES, there is a difference between Baltic and Balkans.grrrr.

JLeslie's avatar

@PhiNotPi I have no idea what you are talking about with a and an @blueberry_kid is correct it has to do with the first letter of the following word.

@sliceswiththings For me it is honour. Americans actually do use honour on formal invitations. There is one other one that confuses me that I cannot tink of right now.

@Sunny2 I think it is just how the language evolved. I have heard the British say fillet, as if it is spelled fillette, maybe they spell it that way? Not sure. In America we tend to go with the mother language many times so we say fil-lay like the French would. But, don’t get me wrong there are many instances where Americans butcher original pronounciations and Americanize them.

tranquilsea's avatar

I have a book titled, “The Story of English” and the authors state that American version of English is often closer to the English of the 1700 and 1800s and that it has been England who has veered away.

cazzie's avatar


Current British English spellings follow, for the most part, those of Samuel Johnson’s A Dictionary of the English Language (1755), whereas many American English spellings follow Noah Webster’s An American Dictionary of the English Language (1828)

So… who changed from whose?

If you really want to get into it, it goes back to the 16th century. There was debate over what words should be -or and which -our. They tentatively decided that words from Latin be -or and words derived from the Anglo-French be -our. With no standard set on concrete, Johnson wrote his dictionary and then Webster wrote his…. throwing out the idea of recognising the Anglo-French difference in the words and just chucking out the U. OK?

Now, you can read that over tonight and it will put you right to sleep.

tranquilsea's avatar

@cazzie actually things like tend to have me reading for days.

cazzie's avatar

@tranquilsea I grew up in the US, but had to relearn how to spell when I moved to New Zealand. Now, living in Europe, I tend to still spell the English way. This question has come up in conversations around dinner tables in my house before, many times… and we’ve discussed it over the years. It was really interesting learning about what happened. Johnson used many more -our words that have now reverted into just -or in UK English; words like Luncheoun and Governour (see how they are French/Anglo?)... they are spelled, luncheon and governor in UK English now, so your book wasn’t completely wrong about the UK adopting some of the revised spellings made popular by Johnson.

Sunny2's avatar

@JLeslie That makes sense. We pronounce herb as the French do. Thanks.

mattbrowne's avatar

There’s a huge conspiracy going on. Really huge. For world domination. And the secret goal to confuse students in Norway and Germany. And in Copenhagen too. Making these students think that the English are the centre of the universe and the Americans are the center of a parallel universe. Now you know why this is called the many world interpretation.

cazzie's avatar

@mattbrowne hahaha.,,,, Oh, did you hate learning English at school, Matt? lol

mattbrowne's avatar

@cazzie – The 70s in German schools were strictly British English. Some teachers from the UK even made derogatory comments about American English. This has totally changed. My kids learned both. Both are acceptable. They discourage mixtures in one single text, though, which makes sense.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

I was born and raised in the USA, but lived in South Africa and England for five years when I was in my early twenties. I use the British spelling of a lot of words. Not only because I lived overseas, but as a child I read the original Mary Poppins books (not the Disney version) and picked the spelling up from them. In 3rd grade, I spelled “colour” on a spelling test and the teacher marked it wrong! I threw a fit, so the teacher marked it right, but asked my mom where I was getting the weird spelling. Ha-ha.

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