Bristish English vs American English: thank you Mr. Webster!

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There’s British English and there’s American English, and we know that. We also happen to know that a lot of the differences can result from the fact that a native language can be brought to a new country where it can get be mixed up with local idioms or create neologisms on the basis of the new reality where it is spoken. Therefore, it adapts and evolves, and basically this happens with every language.

However, regarding the English spoken in the United Kingdom and that spoken overseas, maybe not everybody knows that we can largely give responsibility for the differences between the two languages to a certain Mr. Noah Webster.

Webster, who was born in Connecticut in 1758, was a writer, an editor, a lexicographer, a translator of Bibles and a truly reformer of American texts. He was so active and prolific that he was nicknamed the “Father of education and of the American school”. He had so much the concept of education close to his heart, he believed that a glorious and young nation as the American one needed to have its own language which, even though it didn’t have to completely abandon its English mother, it should reach “adulthood” and be known with its own status of American language or American English.

The reason of this belief was a result of the fact that Webster considered British English as a language spoilt by French and Latin influences, so it was necessary to adapt the English language to the new needs of a Nation that was looking at its future and not at the past.

The main differences that Webster introduced in the language were related to the logic of an easier spelling, for example: ‘colour’ becomes ‘color’, since the ‘u’ is basically nonexistent from a pronunciation point of view and in general all the words that in British English contain the group ‘our’ in American loose the ‘u’; ‘centre’ becomes ‘center’, still following the pronunciation of the word, and so all the words which end in ‘-tre’ end in ‘ter’ in American; ‘traveller’ becomes ‘traveler’, since pronouncing the word the sound is the one of a single l and the same thing happens to other words with double consonants.

New rules also for the verbs which end with ‘-ise’ in English and become ‘-ize’ in American. The pronunciation of the ‘s’ is equal to the one of ‘z’ in these words, so ‘organise’ becomes ‘organize’, ‘analyse’ becomes ‘analyze’ and so on.

Not to even mention the pronunciation of vowels, the differences in the use of tenses or words that change completely.

After all, George Bernard Shaw said: “England and America are two countries separated by a common language!”.

Well, thanks Mr. Webster, we won’t criticize you for adding new colors to the English language!

Do you want lo learn more? Have a look here.