Worshiping and Kidnapping

By Maeve Maddox

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The recent post on when to double the L when adding an ending to words like cancel prompted this question from David:

What about the “p” in worship. Is it “worshiping” or “worshipping”?

Like cancel, the word worship gets different treatment in British and American usage:

British usage: worship, worshipped, worshipping
American usage: worship, worshiped, worshiping

This difference applies to most spellings of this sort, but not all.

For example, take the spellings kidnapped and kidnapping.

According to what we’ve been saying about British and American usage, “kidnaping” ought to be the preferred American spelling, but it isn’t.

Merriam-Webster does acknowledge the single p spelling, but gives kidnapping first. In the case of cancel and worship, the single consonant spellings are given first and the double letter spellings are the variants.

According to the Chicago Manual of Style, when Merriam-Webster follows one spelling with a “variant,” the first spelling is the one to use.

When I typed “kidnaping” into my American version of Microsoft Word, the software immediately changed it to kidnapping.

Spelling rules are useful guides, but they do not and cannot apply to every word.

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17 Responses to “Worshiping and Kidnapping”

  • Andrew

    One of the ‘rules’ we are taught in our early years of school in the UK is that when a vowel is followed by a consenent, a further vowel softens the first vowel.

    So, by this, Worshiping, would become Wer-shipe-ing.

    Not sure what the validity of this rule is, i.e. whether it was made up by teachers to make our odd rules easier to understand, but that is how I learned it anyway.

  • write a writing

    I always prefer to stick to the British version of spellings, like colour instead of color(US) and labour instead of labor (US) …it is really funny when you grow up with one set of spells and then suddenly they shows as null around..

  • bad tim

    i’ve settled on the rule of thumb that i double final consonants only when the root word is monosyllabic. ‘kidnap’ is a compound word, so it makes sense to double the ‘p’. but is this rule consistent?

  • dont mind me

    does it really matter b/c everyone has their own way of speaking, writing, and thinking and the languages and “right” ways of spelling our only set up and there… truely their is no wrong or right way to spell because everyhitng was just though up by someone eles… such as books are thoughup by theirs writers…

  • priscilla

    It does matter to an extent because there is no such thing as “private” language. It is because we let grammar and spelling slide that language these days are almost unrecognizable in some cases. For example, your sentence “such as books are thoughup by theirs writers…” does not make sense and will not make sense to anyone who cannot tell that you were trying to say “such as books are THOUGHT UP by THEIR writers…” Without rules, there will not be a structure to follow and people won’t be able to learn the language.

  • Alan Sears

    All the preceding posts have at least one error.

  • Ken

    Americans do not speak or write English as such. They speak a distinct dialect, which really should be termed American, as it is far removed from English.

    The Yanks, as advised by Noah Webster, are inconsistent in their spelling, and their idea of grammar differs greatly from English as written in Britain and the Commonwealth countries.

    As indicated above, the earlier answers only indicate the ignorance of the young.

  • Maeve

    No one questions that the dialect of English spoken by Americans is a dialect of the English language. And whatever form of English you speak is also a dialect.

    Every language is a collection of differing dialects. Your dialect of English, like mine, is a descendant of the London dialect spoken by Geoffrey Chaucer in the 14th century.

    You suggest that the English written in the Commonwealth countries is identical to the English written in Britain. They’re close, just as the English written in the United States is close to British English, but they are not identical.

    I think everyone who has commented on this post would enjoy the 1987 BBC program/programme called The Story of English. Your local library probably has a copy of the television series or of the companion book of the same name.

  • Lance

    This is just another example of non-standard usage trying to creep into legitimacy, and there is no call for it. This is a stupid trend, and you can thank a prescriptive grammarian that it will be quashed and ridiculed into non-existence. The rule is the simple CVC ending rule for suffixes, and there are no exceptions, so do it correctly. The correct spellings are “cancelled” “kidnapper” and “worshipping”. You can keep your creoles and pidgins to yourselves. The rules haven’t changed, and incorrect usage will not change them.

  • Charles

    @Lance, so then should gossipper, developper and gallopper be correct? They are all CVC endings but I don’t think I’ve ever seen them spelled that way.

  • Melissa

    So in American English it’s…worship, worshiping…but…ship, shipping?

  • Maeve

    American speakers might like to have a look at my spelling guide, —7 Steps to Good Spelling—. There’s a section that explains why US speakers write “controlling,” but write “traveling.”

  • David

    I am born and raised in the US, but I’ve NEVER seen ‘worshiping’ before today and when I saw it, I saw it as a spelling error. I would spell it according to CVC and double that ‘p’. In that sense, I guess I prefer the British spelling.

    To the British that insist that “Americans are wrong”, I say “get over yourselves”. Yes, we call it English and yes, it’s different than the way you do it, but variations in language and culture are natural in our world. Anyone who insists that others are doing it wrong just because it isn’t their way suffers from myopic zenocentrism.

  • Julie Link

    You note that Merriam-Webster lists worshiped and worshiping as preferred spellings in the US, but my M-W app lists the double-consonant spelling first. Which should I recommend to an American writer whose readers are also American?

  • Maeve

    Julie Link,
    I wrote this post in 2009. I can’t believe I would have written what I did without looking up the word “worship” in the Merriam-Webster International dictionary that I subscribe to online. Either M-W has changed the order since 2009, or I was seeing something that wasn’t there.

    In my old print copy of Webster’s Collegiate (2nd edition), the single-p spellings are given first.

    As for your question, advise your American writer to go with “worshipped” and “worshipping”!

    Meanwhile, I’ll go back to more recent authorities and update my information.

  • Maeve

    Julie Link’s post on January 8 prompted me to write an update on this topic: “Worshipping and Kidnapping Revisited.” It will appear in a week or so.

    I really appreciate all the comments.

  • Maeve

    BTW. . .
    Just the other day, I read a caption in the Washington Post that gave the spelling “worshiped.” I guess they don’t use the AP Stylebook.

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