Make Your Editor Cry: Acapella or A Capella vs. A Cappella

Make Your Editor Cry:  Acapella or A Capella vs. A Cappella

In referring to singing without instrumental accompaniment, the traditional and therefore most correct spelling is from the Italian; two words, two Ps, two Ls, spelled a cappella.

A cappella arrived in English from Italian sometime around the late-18th century. In Italian, a cappella means “in chapel or choir style.” Cappella with two Ls is the Italian word for “chapel.” The English word chapel with one P and one L is ultimately derived from the Medieval Latin word cappella, which is also the source of the Italian cappella. Scholars once thought all “chapel style” music written before the 1600s was performed a cappella, but modern research has revealed that instruments likely doubled or substituted for some voices even back then. Today a cappella describes a purely vocal performance.

The dead-language original Latin spelling; two words, just one P, two Ls, “a capella” is probably “uppity” and while you may think spelling it that way could make you seem well schooled, in modern musical terminology, nearly everything is described using the later Italian words. I mean everything from Aria to Volante and everything in between like crescendo, forte, pianissimo and on and on it goes. Don’t believe it? Then you’ve obviously never had a fat bearded middle-aged man with a wand screaming “Rallentando!” in your face at the top of his lungs .

The one-word, just one P, two Ls spelling “acapella,” while popular among the non-musical masses (especially in the US), would get you kicked right off of the 80s show Fame by taskmaster Lydia Grant. Any musician worth his or her salt would regard that spelling as a humiliating error somewhere between , say waking up naked with a hangover and sharpie marks on your face in the middle of Times Square on the low end, and actually owning a Nissan Cube on the extreme high end.

The most correct spelling is a cappella.

Examples:

Incorrect:

We lit candles and finished the songs acapella after the power went out.

We lit candles and finished the songs a capella after the power went out.

Correct:

We lit candles and finished the songs a cappella after the power went out.

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