A Deliberate Language Barrier
The United States and Britain are two countries “divided by a common language”, George Bernard Shaw allegedly quipped. This statement, amusingly paradoxical on the face of it, might be more accurate than it seems. On “War of words: The language paradox explained”, evolutionary biologist Mark Pagel argues that languages proliferate to differentiate competing groups.
If so, a shared tongue is not what the transatlantic rivals would have wanted. Sure enough, they quickly diverged; some of the differences between US and British spellings seem to have arisen as part of a knowing attempt to widen the gulf. So perhaps it was Shaw’s fellow wit Oscar Wilde who got closer to the mark when he observed in his 1887 story The Canterville Ghost that “we have really everything in common with America nowadays, except, of course, language”.