Date: Wed, 9 Jul 1997 12:58:56 -0400 From: Gregory {Greg} Downing Subject: "smelt" At 09:37 AM 7/9/97 -0700, you (barbara harris ) wrote: >Re "smelt": I'm pretty sure I say "smelt," and also "spelt" and "learnt" >(though possibly only in rapid speech), but I would never spell any of them >that way - except, of course, the fish. > As often in ads, it's possible that "smelt" was used by the copywriter to give an "upscale" image to the product and its users, since past forms in -t rather than -ed sound British or old-fashioned (thus upsacle) to mainstream speakers of US English. (You can find tons of no-longer-current -t pasts in 19C poetry, some of which is still read in schools sometimes; Romantic/19C poets often imitated 16/17C spellings, or imitated earlier-19C revivers of 16/17C usages.) I suspect it was not intended as a US regionalism, even though it can be that as well (this is what the poster of the original query wondered about) -- unless there's strong evidence in the ad that the speakers are to be identified as "having an accent" for some product- or image-related reason. Also, "smelled" is a pretty strong, unpleasant word to most people, with lots of bad associations. So maybe "smelt" seemed nicer to the people who decided on the wording. Why not ask them? The bleach company has an ad agency, and a real person handles the account and knows who wrote the copy. They might even find it interesting to talk for a minute about their decision-making process -- though what they had in mind and how viewers take what they do are not necessarily identical of course. Greg Downing/NYU, at greg.downing[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] or downingg[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]