One of my husband’s favorite shows is Top Gear–the British version. Being a car show, they have cause to say lots of things that are different than how we say it in America. Boot, bonnet…and aluminium instead of aluminum. On one particular show, the presenter is talking about an American car and quotes that it’s made from “aluminum–whatever that is.”

First, it made me laugh. Then it made me wonder why we say it differently. Looking up the answer made me laugh again. =)

Sir Humphry Davy coined the word aluminum in 1812, taken from the Latin alum. In 1809 he’d called this metal alumium, but he changed it for reasons unknown, and American kept this second incarnation of his word. Editors that same year, however, amended it still further:

Aluminium, for so we shall take the liberty of writing the word, in
preference to aluminum, which has a less classical sound. [“Quarterly
Review,” 1812]

So there we have it. Aluminum didn’t sound classical enough. Love it. =)

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