3 of English’s most vexing idiosyncrasies

Our language is full of spelling disparities and irregularities. Don’t let these head-shakers trip you up.  

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Often, the English language appears to have been invented by a malicious entity.

We can pin some blame on Noah Webster—the American lexicographer who complicated matters by advocating for changes in spelling rules to differentiate American English from its British English parent. However, many of our linguistic idiosyncrasies derive from the fact that English has borrowed heavily from the architecture of other languages. This post explores three categories of vexing spelling issues that English writers confront.

Cloth is the word for material used to make garments, but we clothe ourselves when we dress. A sheath is a cover or case, but when we place something in the sheath, we use the word sheathe to describe the action. Meanwhile, a wreath is a circular arrangement of vegetation used as decoration or to denote bestowal of an honor, while wreathe means “shape into a wreath” in literal and figurative senses. Also, teeth are bonelike appendages in animals’ mouths, while teethe refers to the emergence of teeth from the gums.

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