Teddy Roosevelt Changes the American Language

In America we spell certain words a bit different. Colour is color, favour is favor, parlour is parlor. Have you ever wondered why? Well, I was reading a good book called One-night Stands with American History and found out the answer: President Theodore Roosevelt.

On August 27, 1906 T.R. decided to change the American language. Some changes were small and were quickly adopted by American dictionaries. Many words had silent vowels removed, such as the words I listed. Also changed were words like rumor, which was rumour. Some of the other changes were not as elegant and were not kept. For example, the word kissed became kist and blushed became blusht. As soon as Congress came back from their recess there was a great debate. Shortly after, T.R.’s changes were knocked down and the Government Printing Office was ordered to “observe and adhere to the standard of orthography prescribed in generally accepted dictionaries of the English language.” Of course, since the dictionaries had already adopted some of the new spellings, they stuck with us. I bet T.R. “blusht” when he heard he had been beaten.

SOURCE: Mark Sullivan, Our Times (New York: Scribner’s, 1930-36), IV, 162-90.