Why Do British People Say Aluminum Wrong?

Wes O'Donnell
4 min readApr 26

Since a large number of my subscribers are from the UK, these comments should be entertaining…

Photo by Julia Maior on Unsplash

Occasionally I’ll encounter a weird quirk of life that requires a deep dive — a question that nobody is asking because they either don’t care or assume that it’s just always been that way.

For instance, why is this fringe found all over American Western outdoor clothing?

Like fringe on Western wear, the fact that British people say Aluminum with more syllables has bothered me for some time.

The Brits added a single letter “i” to aluminum and turned it into “alumin-ium” thus changing it from four syllables to five.

But first, let’s dispel this frequent British retort:

“We invented the bloody language, you muppet, so if anything, you Americans are saying it wrong.”

Eh, not so fast your majesty… Our language borrowed heavily from the Romans, but that’s beside the point. The word aluminum is a special case where you added a syllable just to make it sound more complicated and, well, British!

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “That’s a harsh accusation, Wes. Where’s your proof?”

Certainly, it’s not hard to imagine that a culture so famed for its labyrinthian bureaucracy would try to make something easy more difficult simply because it sounds more cultured.

Of course that’s something they would do!

One need only look at a typical British government website to see:

  • Long, complex words
  • Long, unwieldy sentences
  • Impenetrable jargon
  • Unnecessary verbiage
  • Padding and pointless detail

But to truly understand the aluminum versus aluminium debacle, we need to go back to a simpler time — the early Middle Ages — when Europe was coming to terms with the collapse of the Roman empire.

Wes O'Donnell

Army & Air Force Veteran | Global Security Wonk for War is Boring, GEN, OneZero, Soldier of Fortune | Law Student | TEDx Speaker | Founder of Warrior Lodge