In the case of "aluminum", we can pin the whole mess on Sir Humphry Davy, the English chemist who discovered the stuff back in 1807. Indulging in the perversity of which historical figures seem fond, Davy named his discovery not "aluminum", nor even "aluminium", but "alumium", basing the term on the Latin "alumen", meaning "alum", a substance drawn from the same mineral that had been used since ancient times for dyeing hides and the like. Around 1812 he changed the name, rather suddenly, to "aluminum". Almost immediately Davy was besieged by other scientists who pointed out that if Davy would just add an "i" to make the term "aluminium", it would fall into line with such other substance names as "sodium" and "calcium" thus making it sound more classical and sensical. So Davy named it again, this time to "aluminium," and the "ium" form became standard in both the U.S. and Great Britain.
Unfortunately, with the over hastiness for which the press can usually be accused, the incorrect name of "aluminum" was published across the United States, (where, it seems, no one paid the slightest bit of attention to the correction in the following issue). Thus the ghastly, non-conforming name stuck, and has not been removed since, due to the Americans' infamous insistance to never admit themselves wrong.
That is why this story is never told, but be sure to quote it whenever some surly American guffaws at the completely correct English pronounciation of a completely correctly spelt English word.
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