In this edition of Grammar Corner, we discuss some of the most widely used grammar errors in the English language. We don’t just correct you, though; we pinpoint exactly why a particular word/phrase/idiom is used incorrectly, while providing the context for each mistake, and then providing the right word/phrase/idiom.
Most of the time, a grammar error occurs because of homophones. Homophones are two words that sound exactly the same, but mean vastly different things. But it’s not just their meaning that’s different; homophones can also function as vastly different parts of speech.
In this edition, however, we discuss two words that mean the same exact thing, with the only difference being spelling and, more importantly, cultural context: color vs. colour.
At the root of this discussion is less about meaning, context, or even homophony; in fact, the only discussion to be had is the cultural aspect of each spelling variation. If you’re still wondering which one is correct, color or colour, let’s answer that now: both are correct, but only if using each spelling variation’s version of English.
Why are Color and Colour Spelled Differently?
If you ever feel frustrated about the seemingly unnecessary spelling variations between British and American English, you have one person to blame: Noah Webster.
As we discussed before, Noah Webster was a famous lexicographer and editor back in the early 1800’s, but it’s his job as a political writer that inspired him to push for a reform of the English language. Noah Webster believed that the newly minted United States of America needed its own language: English was, of course, the de facto national language, but he wanted to differentiate it from its colonial forebears. This was Webster’s way of trying to propagate American ‘superiority’ by reimagining how words were spelled.
Of course, it wasn’t always because of his nationalistic spirit: Webster also chose to redefine a word’s spelling on the grounds of simplicity, analogy, or etymology. By 1828, he published the American Dictionary of the English Language, which set the precedent for American English standards like spellings of words that end in –er, dropping e at the end of certain words, as well as the doubling of consonants with a suffix.
Color vs. Colour: Which One is Correct?
As with all things British English vs. American English, always write for the audience. If your core readers speak British English, then it follows that your writing should also follow the Queen’s. Meanwhile, if your readers are mostly state-side, then it’s best to write with the American Standard.
Color: The American Version
Golly gee, I remember when the Color Television came out. I thought I was having a stroke!
Hey honey, what color was the dog when you left him earlier?
Did you hear about Sandy’s new boyfriend? Apparently, he has a very colorful past as a children’s party clown.
I hate to break it to you John, but Chicken Cordon Bleu isn’t actually supposed to be colored blue
I mean, if you had to choose a favorite color, why on Earth would you choose vomit green?
Whoa, did you know that the first colorized film went all the way back to 1912? That’s the year my grandfather fought for the Germans!
I understand you’re learning how to color, sweetie, but please put the crayons down and get off the police horse.
“Because I’m color-blind” is not a legitimate excuse for running a red light, Grandma.
Despite our different colors, creeds, and nationalities, I think we can all agree: McDonald’s French fries are superior.
I knew I was in trouble when I started seeing colors that I had never seen before, but I guess that’s what I get for insisting on a tour of R’lyeh.
Colour: The British Version
Jocelyn, the chameleon changed its colour to grey and now I can’t find him.
The colour of the sky turned quickly from orange to purple, and Stanley knew if he couldn’t find a way out of the bog by sundown, he’ll be in a spot of trouble.
Despite colouring inside the lines, Nigel was determined to show off his rebellious side by using shades not usually associated with elephants.
“Oi!” the biker shouted, “you’re wearing the wrong colours mate!”. Daniel sweated profusely, “damn my colour blindness!” he told himself.
Can you paint with all the colours of the wind? That’s just ridiculous, not to mention physically impossible: air doesn’t contain colours!
Wentworth was busy colourising the vintage film he had recovered from the stall at Oxbridge when the soccer hooligans arrived.
The colour of the lilacs is vibrant today, Margaret, I think it’s that new fertilizer you’re using. By the way, have you seen my cat?
I don’t think that’s what Timothy had in mind when he said “colour me pink”, Michael.
Did you really just patent your own colour? Who are you, Anish Kapoor?
Jeremy, the chameleon didn’t change colour, he was just hiding in your hat.