Past tense Spelling

David A. Daniel dad at POKERWIZ.COM
Sun Oct 26 16:43:44 UTC 2008

Basically, Brits have always double-peed kidnapped and kidnapping and, up
until recently, Yanks mostly single-peed it, though to much criticism from
home and abroad - abroad being basically the Brits who fairly constantly
pointed out the "ape" part of the pronunciation and wondered why Yanks
didn't get it. It would be interesting to know when Americans started
double-peeing as a rule; if it was with the advent of spell checkers then
hail spell checkers, cause the single-peeing was truly dumb. As to rule:
ain't no rule, except that if you look at it and you think, from the way
it's written, it really should be pronounced "ape" rather than "app" then
something is probably amiss with the orthography.

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of
Douglas G. Wilson
Sent: Sunday, October 26, 2008 2:18 PM
Subject: Re: Past tense Spelling

> On Oct 26, 2008, at 7:55 AM, Randy Alexander wrote in answer to David
> Metevia about the spelling "kipnaped":
>> Your examples aren't consistent.  Kidnaped (or kidnapped) is
>> accented on the
>> first syllable, but admitted is accented on the second syllable.  I
>> believe
>> that the "rule" is thus: consonants are doubled before the suffixes -
>> ed,
>> -es, -er, -est, -ing, and -y (I think that's all of them) if the
>> following
>> criteria are met:
>> 1. The last (or only) syllable must end with one consonant letter
>> and one
>> vowel letter.  The letter Y can count as a vowel letter.
>> 2. The last (or only syllable must be accented.
>> W, X, and Y are never doubled.
> (and consonant letters are not doubled otherwise.)
> this is the rule that i got from the style sheet at the newspaper i
> once worked at, but it's not entirely clear.  the problem is with
> clause 2: what counts as "accented"?   the second syllable of "kidnap"
> doesn't bear the primary accent of the verb, but it's not
> *un*accented; it has a weak secondary accent (or tertiary, depending
> on your analysis of accent in english).  so this word, unlike (say)
> "travel", could go either way.
> it took me a while to get used to things like "kidnaped", "kidnaper",
> and "kidnaping".

These 'rules' are not going to reliably provide reasonable spellings
IMHO (at least not without a bunch of footnotes and special exceptions).

Seems obvious from the 'rules' that if "kidnaped" is OK so is "catnaped"
(referring to sleep): is everyone happy with this? Or with
"chitchating", "bootstraped", "bullyraging", etc., etc.?

Of course most of these weird ones (including "kidnaped") will disappear
if secondary stress is accepted as 'stress' (demanding a doubling), but
I doubt secondary stress will be reliably and reproducibly identified.

Nowadays, I suppose the question is insignificant, since whoever
(however incompetent) set up the spell-checker is the arbiter?

-- Doug Wilson

The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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