Spelled or Spelt?

I received both a question and an answer today from the Peanut Gallery. As is customary, I’ll do the question first.

John from Oman (hey, that rhymes!) writes:
I do so enjoy your ramblings!
You may have covered this in a previous tip, but here goes…. [Yesterday you wrote:]
“Always give those words a good, hard look to be sure they are spelled correctly.”
When would I use “spelt”? Do we only use this version with a first person, i.e., “He spelt the word correctly”?

John, if you’re British or learned to speak British English, you may use “spelt” as the simple past tense or past participle of the verb “to spell” for first person, second person, and third person, singular or plural. We Americans prefer to use “spelled” as the past tense and past participle of “to spell.” It’s a local dialect thing.

There are several other verbs that have past participles that end with a T in Brit-speak and end with an ED in Yank-speak:
– dreamt and dreamed
– burnt and burned
– smelt and smelled

The latter British version is a perennial favorite in the Perdue Family Vehicle, particularly after taking the boys out to eat Mexican food: “He who smelt it, dealt it.”

Next, the answer about hay bale shapes, sent by Christian from Houston (kinda rhymes):
The shape of hay bales depends on the machine making them. There are special “tractors” (if I may call them such) that pick up the hay and form the bales. Nowadays they just work like a kind of spatula picking up chocolate: they make one big roll and spit it out behind when the size is adequate. I don’t know much about the square bales, but it sounds like they would have been formed with a compacting device rather than the current “roll-making” technology. There is a third type of bale, which is the plain, old, manual haystack, as seen in some European impressionist paintings (and probably Amish fields today.)

Thanks, Christian. Not just for the hay bale shape lesson, but for the wonderful vision of a tractor-sized spatula making a bale-sized roll of chocolate, releasing it for me when the size is adequate! Ahhhhh, a man after my own heart! Oops, better not drool onto my keyboard – that would be bad.


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