AL-U-MIN(-I)-UM

A response to Anonymous:

https://rebeccaadabsurdum.wordpress.com/2014/01/12/some-of-the-most-puzzling-people/#comments

There are, in fact, two widely accepted spellings for the metal: Aluminum and Aluminium.

English chemist Sir Humphrey Davy –

“Sir Humphrey Davy
Abominated gravy.
He lived in the odium
Of having discovered sodium.”

http://www.schoenml.org/112fp/clerihew.htm

is responsible for the naming of the element. In 1807, he named the element “alumium” – which he soon changed to “aluminum.” The name “aluminum” only lasted for five years before, in 1812, Davy finally settled on the name “aluminium,” which has been the name for it since.

If all this is true, why do we still have this?

Here’s where it gets complicated. Although both versions of the word were in circulation, the scientific community as a whole preferred to use the finalized “aluminium.” Noah Webster’s Dictionary of 1828, however, only listed the word “aluminum.” Future dictionaries adopted this practice although American scientists retained the British “aluminium” in practice. Neither word was widely used, however, as up until around 1895 the metal was considered a rare and valuable substance. A way to extract the metal cheaply was discovered and suddenly it was everywhere. Michael Quinion* suggests that during this time journalists were scrambling to write about this new metal and turned to Webster’s Dictionary for the correct spelling of the word, so that the public read exciting news stories about wonder-metal “aluminum.” The scientific community in America later followed when the American Chemist Society officially adopted the word “aluminum” in 1925, however there has been a recent shift to try to re-standardize the word “aluminium” in the USA.

*read more about it here:

http://www.worldwidewords.org/articles/aluminium.htm

For more word trivia, check out World Wide Words here:

http://www.worldwidewords.org/index.htm

Questions

  • How does a word change over time?
  • Are both spellings “correct”?
  • How does what we’re writing about reflect cultural and societal shifts?
  • What are some other words with more than one accepted spelling? 

Leave a reply below!

………………………………

BONUS:

Don’t tell me you didn’t see this coming.-“aluminum”

If you need them in order. -“aluminium”

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One thought on “AL-U-MIN(-I)-UM

  1. As a science teacher I can appreciate your links to the periodic table songs! However I never did see much point in memorizing them. It’s all the other info on the table that’s actually useful. I never noticed the two different spellings for aluminum before, either.

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