Spelling vs. Pronunciation
Casey from Gaylord asked why
some words are spelled one way, but pronounced another. He used the word
colonel as an example.
In some cases, a word comes
into English through more than one route. It may then retain the spelling of
one, but favor the pronunciation of the other. This happened in the case of the
word colonel. It came into English from the Italian word colonello. It also
entered English from the French word coronel. The Italian version influenced
the English spelling, but the French pronunciation ruled.
In other cases, words that
were in currency when Caxton introduced the printing press into England in 1476
had their spelling frozen in place even though their pronunciation later
changed. For example, this happened with the words knight, know, gnat, gnaw,
wrist, and wrong. This also explains the inconsistency in sound among the words
plough, through, thorough, rough, trough, thought, and dough.
Also, in the 18th
century, poet John Dryden and his friends, ashamed of the “degenerated” English
language, went into a Latinizing frenzy. If a word had originally come from
Latin, they reasoned, it should be spelled in a way that gave homage to that
heritage. So we ended up with the illogical receipt (< receptus), subtle (< subtilis), debt (< debitum), salmon (< salmo), and island (< insula), instead of the naturally evolved receite, sutill, dette, samoun, and
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