TL;DR – “Humor” is the American spelling, while “humour” is the British spelling. Choose based on your audience or the version of English you’re using.
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Humor or Humour? A Dive into the Linguistic Laugh Line
Humor is a universally appreciated quality, often seen as a balm for life’s many adversities. But when it comes to the English language, the question isn’t just about what’s funny; it’s about how you spell it: “humor” or “humour”?
British vs. American English: A “U” Makes All the Difference
At the heart of this linguistic divergence lies the age-old tussle between British and American English. “Humour” is the preferred spelling in British English, while “humor” is the American variant. If one were to read a British newspaper or a piece from the Washington Post, they’d encounter these different spellings, reflecting the nuances of each linguistic tradition.
For instance, an American might say, “She has a great sense of humor,” while their British counterpart might comment, “He has a fantastic sense of humour.”
Tracing the Roots: From Latin to Today
The word itself is derivative of the Latin term “umor,” which meant liquid or moisture. This was likely a reference to the ancient medical belief in the four humors: black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood. Fast forward to the evolution of the English language, and we find the term “humour” being used in a sense that is more familiar to us today, referring to something funny or amusing.
It’s also interesting to note that many languages have words that sound similar to “humor” or “humour.” For example, Spanish has “humor,” German uses “Humor,” and French goes with “humeur” (though the meaning in French diverges slightly). Even in Greek, Arabic, Polish, and Chinese, one can find words that resonate with the concept of humor, even if their phonetics differ.
The Great Atlantic Shift
As the English language traveled across the pond to America, many words underwent subtle changes, either in pronunciation, spelling, or both. It’s here that “humour” dropped its “u” to become “humor,” much like “colour” became “color.”
The New York Times might use “humor” in its articles, whereas Wikipedia, given its global reach, might point out both variants. USA Today, on the other hand, would remain consistent with the American spelling.
Funny Examples and Anecdotes
Puns, a form of humor (or humour!) enjoyed by many (and groaned at by some), can further illustrate this point. For instance, for the under-13 set, saying “No ‘u’ in American humor, but gas in ‘humour’ for the British!” might get a chuckle. This refers to the American spelling and the fact that “gas” in British English is spelt as “petrol.”
Other English Variants
It’s also worth mentioning that British and American English aren’t the only players in this game. Canadian English often sides with British spelling, so “humour” it is for our neighbors to the north.
The Final Word
Ultimately, whether you use “humor” or “humour” depends on the version of English you’re speaking or where you’re writing. It’s always a good idea to be aware of your audience. As with any linguistic peculiarity, the most important thing is to communicate effectively.
After all, whether spelt with a “u” or not, a good sense of humor (or humour) is universally cherished. As the saying goes, it’s a funny thing about humor; what tickles one person might not tickle another, but everyone values a hearty laugh.
What does it mean “just humor me”?
“Just humor me” means “indulge me” or “go along with what I’m saying or asking, even if you find it unnecessary or don’t agree.” It’s a request for patience and understanding for the speaker’s sake.
Published on: 2023-10-06
Updated on: 2023-10-09