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Webster’s Campaign for American Orthography

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There’s no difference in meaning between center and centre, but there is an interesting story behind the change in spelling. In the early 19th century, independence-minded lexicographer Noah Webster campaigned for a new American orthography. While his countrymen rejected the British spellings of centre, theatre, and defence, they rejected Webster’s attempts to replace soup with “soop” and women with “wimmen.” For more on the intricacies of Canadian spelling, try Organizing Our Marvellous Neighbours:How to Feel Good About Canadian English by Joe Clark. This is part of a complete episode.

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