On Jul 15, 2011, at 5:30 AM, Pierre wrote:
Thanks, Marty.Putting on one of my other hats, as a retired professor of English
linguistics I can tell you that Americans dropped the "u" in colour,
labour, etc. owing almost entirely to the efforts of Noah Webster,
whose spelling books predominated in U. S. schools for several
generations. Webster, caught in the post-colonial American revolt
against all things British, believed that American English had
diverged far enough from British English to be considered a separate
language with its own standards. That wasn't true, but it WAS true
that American English had evolved into a number of regional dialects
that were notably different from any of the dialects of British
English, including what linguists call RSB (Received Standard
British), the non-regional dialect of the upper classes and the upper
class universities which became the standard for written English on
both sides of the Atlantic. Webster wanted to completely reform
American spelling, an effort which largely failed, but he did succeed
in dropping the "u" in the spellings of "-our" words, changing "gaol"
to "jail," and numerous other minor revisions which persist today.
Thanks to Webster, though the clues are subtle, one can look at
almost any book written in modern English and quickly determine
whether it was published in the United States or in Great Britain or
a Commonwealth country.
Now, to drag a freight car topic in by the ears, why didn't the
spelling change in the name of the Armour packing company? As you
suggested in another post, Armour reefers still have the "u" in the
name because it was a family name which the family chose not to
change. Family names, understandably, tend to preserve obsolete
spellings. Another example is the Morrell packing company, where the
double "R" and double "L" survived, though the name of the mushroom
species that's pronounced the same way is "morel." Many family names
were already established well before English spelling began to be
standardized in the 18th century.