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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/47

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PREFERENCE IN ENGLISH SPELLING.

British spelling of tyre, kerb, programme and cheque perhaps has as much to commend it as the American tire, curb, program and check. Usage in America varies in the case of program, the more conservative still clinging to programme. Tyre and kerb are but little employed here. These words are merely variant forms which British usage has adopted. The spelling cheque, in general use in Great Britain for our bank check, has resulted through the influence of the word exchequer with which it is connected.

The usual American spelling of wagon is held up to public obloquy by British journalists, who regard waggon as the orthodox orthography. Skeat, who gives both forms in his etymological dictionary, asserts that the doubling of the g is simply a device to show that the preceding vowel is short. In the early history of the language when the etymological spelling was in vogue, pedants had recourse to this method of changing the form of a word to make it phonetic, as they claimed. In point of fact, by their practise they made the language far less phonetic. Spenser and other early English authors write the word after the American fashion. Horace Greeley once made a departure from our American usage and wrote waggon, saying by way of apology, when his attention was called to it, that 'they used to build wagons heavier in the good old times when he learned to spell.'

It is not to be supposed for a moment, however, that our utilitarian disregard of tradition is so strong as to have eliminated all useless letters in our American spelling. There is many a word in which an epenthetic letter is still retained merely because the traditional spelling shows it. Sovereign, comptroller, island and rhyme may be cited as examples in point. Perhaps it ought to be added that the emended spelling rime for rhyme appears to be meeting with favor in certain philological circles.

There is one class of words which does not exhibit a uniform method of writing, either in Great Britain or in America. This class is typified by the words traveler, counselor, worshiper and the like. It will be readily seen that these words are all derivatives, formed from the primary by the addition of a suffix; and the writing vacillates between a single and a double consonant preceding the suffix. According to the well-known principle of English orthography, these words are not entitled to a double consonant, and therefore should never be written traveller, counsellor and worshipper. The rule is, if the final syllable of a word ending in a single consonant and preceded by a short vowel is accented, the final consonant, on the addition of a suffix beginning with a vowel, is doubled; but never otherwise. Thus we write offered, deviled and the like, but referred, transferred and jammed. Hence the orthodox spelling should be traveler, counselor, worshiper, unrivaled and the like. But practise shows that either spelling is regarded as correct on both sides of the Atlantic. These