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How Did We Get Color?

There is a burning question when it comes to the english language and color, or is it colour?


Interestingly the word colour traces it’s roots to the latin word “color”. As the influence of the French language began to seep into middle english with the Norman conquest of England in the 11th century the “u” in color became the standard. This spelling remained the standard in the english language for centuries.

In the late 1700’s and an ocean away from the old english speaking world things began to change for colour. The enlightenment brought about a new way of looking at, organizing and standardizing the natural world. This drive for organization extended to the lexicon of the english language. In 1755 Samuel Johnson compiled the “Dictionary of the English Language”. This compilation of the english language was standard throughout the english-speaking world until some upstarts in North America decided they no longer wanted to be part of the ever expanding British empire.


Noah Webster                                                        Samuel Johnson

(Looks like a fun guy)                                          (as seen in memes)

A return to Latin root words had been gaining popularity for decades in America before the revolution. Thomas Jefferson had even edited the draft of the Declaration of Independence to remove words that had the “ou” spelling influenced by French. In 1828 Noah Webster, an american lexicographer published Webster’s Dictionary. Webster was considered a spelling reformist and believed that shorting English words back to their Latin base was beneficial to the usage of a language. With this belief in shorted words and with a hint of nationalism Webster gave the United States the word “color” as a standard spelling.    

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