British vs. American spelling
A history of theater vs. theatre. An excerpt:
It was almost 200 years ago that Connecticut lawyer and schoolmaster Noah Webster decided that America would spell words differently from the British, as, in many cases, we already were. In a series of influential dictionaries, like the Compendious Dictionary of the English Language in 1806, Webster decisively got rid of the extraneous u in colour and flavour, the unnecessary -me in programme, the second i in aluminium-and, following trends already in play by 1780 or so, he reversed the final two letters in many English words like centre and fibre and theatre.I can't vouch for much of that, but it sure is a good story.
To practical, hardworking Americans, Webster's plainer, more phonetic spellings came as a welcome relief; they just made more sense. Americans were especially happy to get rid of the -re suffix, a remnant from the Norman French who had invaded England in 1066. Nineteenth-century Americans started spelling centre "center," and fibre "fiber." They even started spelling theatre> "theater." If there was any big dispute about that at the time, it's not prominent in the history books.
It was profoundly successful. American spelling has conquered most of the English-speaking world. On the web in 2005, Webster's spellings are more popular than the original Franco-British spellings worldwide.
(An aside: Every time I write "vouch," I end up spelling it "vouge" first. Then my brain sends up a signal: "Yoohoo, don't think that's right," and I realize my error. Are dictionaries starting to accept "vouge" or is Merriam-Webster's super-secret extended dictionary simply referring to this?)
(One more aside: Any of you watch "Aqua Teen Hunger Force"? Now anytime I say "yoohoo," I hear Meatwad calling, "Yoohoo, running crew!" to the Mooninites. Wonderful.)