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Noah Webster “Americanized” the English Language

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Had all of Noah Webster’s “American” spelling changes become commonplace, your body parts would include the thum, tung, and hed.  

Much of what Webster put in his first dictionary, 1806’s Compendious Dictionary of the English Language, became the norm in the new country. This work was one of the first to designate “i” and “j” as separate letters, likewise with “u” and “v”. Noah was keen on removing silent letters from words, such as the “u” in honour and the “k” in publick. He also championed the reversal of the “re” in words including centre and theatre, replaced “que” with “k” in words such as cheque, and changed “c” to “s” for the likes of offence and defence.

But quite a few of Noah Webster’s suggestions fell by the wayside. When he took the “e” off imagine and definite, the American public couldn’t get used to the new spellings. Even though “women” sounds more like his preferred spelling of wimmen, and “is” sounds more like iz, those changes also didn’t make the cut.

When newer editions of Webster’s dictionary appeared later in the 19th century, many of his radical spelling changes were withdrawn. It was a drastic improovment (as he would have wanted you to spell it).

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