Canceled vs. Cancelled

Canceled vs. Cancelled

Guest post by Alice E.M. Underwood

This word is a student’s best friend and a concertgoer’s most dreaded nightmare. Take these two signs:

Snow day: school canceled.
Drummer has food poisoning: performance cancelled.

Which one should bring a smile to a perfect speller’s face?

The answer depends on where you call home. American English is all about one L, and British English goes for two.

Let’s get into the nitty-gritty. Way back when, a man named Noah Webster (of Webster’s Dictionary fame) decided that some words could get along just fine without as many letters as our friends the Brits put in them. That’s why many American spellings look different from their British counterparts: think color/colour, honor/honour, rumor/rumour.

For similar word-shortening reasons, Mr. Webster decided to chop the past tense of “cancel” down to one L. This variation first showed up in the Webster’s 1898 Dictionary, though it didn’t fully beat out the double-L spelling until about the 1980s. It’s not a hard-and-fast rule, but it’s the accepted form in American English to this day.

Take a peek at these very American examples:

Mom and Pop couldn’t muster enough apples to bake a nice warm apple pie, so they went ahead and canceled the county barbecue.
The dudes running the show in Hollywood would never think of canceling the next blockbuster superhero film.
Since the automatic canceler stopped all electronic signals as soon as the tornado started up, it looks like we’ll have to go surfing instead.

But, as a British chap would tell you, bollocks! For them, cancelled has two Ls and always will. Just like the word “bollocks” (which is British for expressing skepticism or displeasure, along the lines of “no way!” or “get outta town!”) Americans would probably turn it into “bolocks,” but most Americans don’t really know what a bollock is.

What ho, here are some examples:

The Beatles never cancelled a gig, even when they didn’t get a nice cup of tea beforehand.
The blokes at the theatre will be cancelling the programme today due to the Queen’s visit.
Since the neighbour’s pyjama party was cancelled, let’s queue for some fish and chips at the pub, mate.

Brilliant, eh?

Now that we’ve traveled (and not travelled, thanks to the same rule) through the spelling rules of British vs. American English, let’s look at the exception. Yes, there’s always an exception.

The word cancellation is solidly spelled with two Ls, no matter where you are. So:

Because sugar makes students too hyper, the principal has called for the cancellation of cotton candy sales before classes.
As sugar makes students a wee bit barmy, the headmaster has demanded the cancellation of candy floss purchases prior to modules.

Think of it like this. When you turn the verb “cancel” into past tense, the word stays the same number of syllables (two), so it’s a matter of location whether you use two L’s or one. The -ation that turns the word into a noun, on the other hand, puts a whole new syllable (in fact, two) after the L. The double-L is a like a bridge to those new syllables. At least, that’s one way to keep your Ls in line.

Now you can consider your confusion about those words canceled. Cheers!

The post Canceled vs. Cancelled appeared first on Grammarly Blog.

from Grammarly Blog


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s