Real Spellers

English Makes Sense!

Today one of my teenage students and I searched to determine if the words <relief> and <belief> were using a common base. I was amazed as this student literally dived into Ayto and with a little direction from me found and compared the PIE root in the entries and determined they were not the from the same root despite their spelling similarity (& relative's similarities). We've looked up plenty of other words before but I really let him run with this one.  We plugged the PIE root leubh into Etymonline's search bar and found <lief> "a beloved person," <believe>, <belief>, <leave> a noun-"permission," which came from an idea of "approval resulting in pleasure," and <love>. This student certainly doesn't normally look up words in dictionaries, has never touched an etymological dictionary before. He left our session very excited to see if he can stump his family on whether or not these words might be related. He made a correlation of these words all of his own, saying he really liked the idea that we are the <liefs>, the beloved people, who God gave <leave> to continue in promoting the <belief> that came because of the <love> of God. I concur.

I've never handed my student an etymological dictionary or any other kind of dictionary before, mistakenly thinking dictionaries would be difficult for my students to use because they may struggle with alphabetizing, etc., but it felt right and that was richly rewarded.

I remember Gina mentioning <belief> being related to <love> at Wordstock but I had not taken the time to do this research so it was learning for me too. (One of the quotes Michel used in a RS theme is: Homines dum docent discount-"Men learn while they teach," from Seneca, a Roman tutor, philosopher. How true!)

I was glad this came up today because in the past I have wondered whether <belief> and <relief>had a common base. In Etymonline's entry for <believe> it says, "Spelling beleeve is common till 17c.; then altered, perhaps by influence of relieve, etc." So the spelling may have been changed in imitation of the spelling of <relieve>.

Is there a term for spellings which are changed because of similarities in appearance, phonology, etc. rather than natural evolution?

This experience was a reminder to <believe> in my students' abilities.

I really appreciate the encouragement and mentoring in this community.

Comments (0)

There are no comments posted here yet