The great stumbling block is the British attitude that any changes must originate in England, home of The Queen’s English (and, when a king sits on the throne, The King’s English). Spelling changes that come from any other part of the English-speaking world are invariably rejected, despite the fact that over one billion people worldwide also use English.
Across the globe, 350 million people are native English speakers, and of those, about 60 million reside in the UK. Only one in six native English speakers is British. The English-speaking population of North America is five times greater than that of the UK, and if we consider the 850 million people who regularly use English as their second language, then the British are outnumbered fourteen to one.
Despite their being in a minority position, most Englishmen still believe that they “own” the language and stubbornly refuse to recognize changes that are generally accepted in the rest of the English-speaking world. They ignored the very logical changes that Noah Webster introduced in the early 19th century, and they likewise rejected the changes in spelling suggested by the Spelling Reform Movement at the end of that century. They cringe in horror from any Americanism they come across and write letters to the editor at the slightest deviation from the “correct” archaic form of a word, even when the new spelling or word is linguistically or historically correct.
When asked why they insist on programme instead of program or why they use catalogue instead of catalog or diarrhoea instead of diarrhea—these are three common Americanisms—they have no better excuse than “Because that’s the way it is!”
Meanwhile, the majority of native English speakers, mainly those in North America, have already replaced plough with plow and cheque with check. We have long ago turned harbour into harbor, centre into center, and (except when we want to seem intellectual and fancy) theatre into theater. An omelette is now an omelet, and we have gotten rid of all those useless third vowels in words like manoeuvre, which is now maneuver.
The list of improvements we have made over the years is long, but there is much more work to be done. We are working on thru and lite and perhaps pharmacy will one day be spelled farmacy, as it is in many languages. By then, the English might actually spell donut without the ugh.