I received this great question from a teacher and wanted to offer an initial quick response in this public forum so that others can gain from it -- and add other insights...

I took your workshop in San Francisco and have tried to understand why the words smiley and homey keep the silent e. I have browsed several resources, but none have come up with the reason. Would you kindly answer why the e is kept in these spellings. I look forward to your reply so I understand.

There a few great things about this question. With only a little background this teachers recognizes that both of these words have bases that end in a final, single, silent <e> and that a vowel suffix <-y> should replace that single silent <e>. Also, this question includes within it the assumption that spelling is ordered, and therefore there is an understanding to achieve.

I agree that the spelling <homey> seems incoherent, so I was suspicious. I  took a quick look at my dictionairy to see if there was a spelling <homy> from the structure <home/ + y>. Here is what I found:

homy /ˈhoʊmi/
adjective
variant spelling of homey

Ah ha! I see that there are two attested spellings of this word <homy> and <homey>. 

I'm going to leave you to see if there is a similar situation with <smily> and <smiley>. 

I will stop here except to leave you all with a few questions to consider...

If we see that there are two attested spellings -- how might you deal with that with your studetnts?

Do you have any hypotheses why spellings like these might both be in use? What might be the source of confusion in writers of English words that has led to incoherent spellings surviving alongside coherent ones?

Curious to see what you all think!

Pete

 

 

 

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