In September, I defended my dissertation (check it out here if you're so inclined), then hopped on a plane and immigrated to Scotland to start a job as a lecturer in Sociolinguistics at the University of Edinburgh!
|The sun was in my eyes. I was feeling very excited.|
One thing I was told by another recent US immigrant to the UK wis that that students appreciate attempts at accommodation to British spelling. So, I'm giving that a shot too, although I'm sure I slip up a bunch, since I'm a very poor copy editor. However, out of passing curiosity, I decided to look at the historical trends in these spelling differences in the Google ngrams, and the patterns seemed interesting enough to warrant this blog post.
First, looking at the American English data for <color> and <colour> there's a very nice and clear cross over from
But of course, <-or ~ -our> spelling isn't the only difference between British and American systems. The next set of consistent spelling differences involve <-er ~ -re>. Here are those words plotted out, with <color ~ colour> and <humor ~ humour>left in there as a representative items of the <-or ~ -our> set. So, it seems like there is a similar uniformity within the <-er ~ -re> words (maybe saber and theater are lagging behind) but the <-re→-er> replacement is offset from the <-our→-or> by about 60 years or so.
Of course, I shouldn't have been surprised, because I know how a little bit about language change, but it was fun to see this thing that I think of being a uniform "American Spelling" is actually the result of multiple changes that didn't happen all at the same time.
Just for fun, I took a look at what these patterns look like in British English. So, it looks like there might be a bit of a creep of American spellings into British English, but interestingly, the particular alternations aren't differentiated. So while the end product of "American Spelling" appears to be the result of an accumulation of different changes, the borrowing of American spelling into British English is being done holistically.