Why the Same Words in United States Are Spelled Differently From Their British Counterparts

In the informative etymological whiteboard series for Mental Floss , linguist Arika Okrent and illustrator Sean O’Neill verbally and visually explain the process in by which the same words came to be spelled differently in the United States than their counterparts in Britain. Editor Noah Webster created the first truly American language dictionary in 1806 because he believed that the country “should be as independent in literature as she is in politics.”

Webster’s first version of his American dictionary was published in 1806 and it was loaded with simplifications. He dropped silent letters all over the place, and made adjustments that he thought showed how a reasonable person would spell. Though the dictionary was a big success, many of these changes were ridiculed and failed to catch on.In subsequent versions, they were dropped. But some did catch on and they eventually came to represent the American way of spelling. He tossed the u out of words like honor, favor, and color and made other changes that Americans accepted without too much trouble.