Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Mysterious L

We've all been there, haven't we? Going along, minding our own business, writing an e-mail, say, when suddenly, out of nowhere, it hits.

Is there one L or two in the past tense of the word cancel? Or travel? For that matteris it traveling or travelling? Why are they both accepted spellings on Google?

It is because, my befuddled brethren, there is more than one form of English. Most of us on this side of the Pond know that Britsand even, well, Canadianshave different spellings of some words (like that 'u' in 'colour'; or having an 'e' in lieu of an 'a' in 'grey'). Both cancel and travel (as well as others) fall into this ambiguous category of different, but arguably correct-either-way, spellings.

As a citizen of the United States of America (I do so disagree, on principle, of the use of the word 'American'. Where does that leave Canada and Mexico? And Central America? And South America? Aren't we all, technically, Americans?), one uses the (as always) simplified version of the word: Canceled, canceling, traveled, and traveling. No extra L for us. Why is this arguably correct? Well. Allow me to argue it out.

While I've no qualms with traveled and canceled (though, aesthetically, I do prefer adding an extra L), I think there's a real case, pronunciation-wise, for that second L in traveling and canceling. I can only truly make a case for the way I speak,  but I've noticed this in others as well. When we say the word traveling, we pronounce it, "Travel-ling". Think about it. Two Ls. Rarely do I hear trave-ling, or travel-ing, it is almost always travel-ling. It flows off the tongue much more nicely, does it not?

So, Microsoft Word Document, perhaps you will think of that the next time you give me the red squiggly when I choose the logical spelling of travelling over traveling, hm?