Why We Spell Things the Way We Do

I had reason, recently, to think back on Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train, particularly about the final scene on the merry-go-round or, more formally, the carousel.

That reminded me of the old carousel that used to sit diagonally across Surf Avenue from the Cyclone roller-coaster. It is gone now, but I loved it as long as I could, finding any excuse for taking a child upon it, reaching out for the brass rings and listening to the calliope as we spun around it.

One time, I asked the man who ran it (his retirement, I later learned, led to its closing) why, out front and above the entrance, the word “carousell” had that extra “l.”

“The sign painter was paid by the letter.”

He turned away and collected the next fare.