I saw a word last week that made me angry.
I just want to rant about it. I’ve been boring anyone who’ll listen.
But, it’s made me think.
Maybe, my wanting to have a massive swear session about one stupid word should be kept just to myself and my incredibly patient friends.
(And the delightful older gentleman in the café who also smiled while I ranted.)
Before I go on. Please try this.
Type aluminium into a Word document.
According to Microsoft, the word is spelt aluminum.
You know, like it’s said. Despite the fact, generations of American scientists have been spelling it with the extra i for over 200 years, it seems, rather than admitting they’ve been pronouncing “aluminium” incorrectly, someone has decided to prove they’re right by CHANGING THE SPELLING.
In my quiet moments, I vacillate between marvelling at the capacity of the language to evolve and railing against the sheer audacity of those empire-building sons of bitches.
In a generation, our kids will be dropping i’s , and using z’s instead of s’s when they apologise for spelling aluminium with the extra i.
There are two reasons offered for this.
The one that makes the most sense. Sir Humphry Davey named it. In 1807. He first called it Aluminium (to go with potassium, sodium, magnesium – which, hilariously for what follows, had all been named by Davey). Then he changed it to aluminum (as in molybdenum and platinum – two elements not named by Davey). Then changed it back to aluminium 1812. The Americans simply opted for the shorter version.
And the one I like. The reason the Americans say al-ooo-minum is because, when the English first sent over rolls of foil, they spelt it wrong on the pack.
Either way, the Americans are just saying the word the way the brand managers told them to say it.
Which begs the question.
How often do we assume our customers have got us wrong, when they’re just celebrating what we ourselves have told them about us?