Real Spellers

English Makes Sense!

Some words end with <ic> in the noun form.  For example, <magic>.  The adj. form is <magical>.  But what about other words such as <history>?  Etymonline lists both -ic and -ical as proper suffixes. 

-ic Look up -ic at
adj. suffix, from Fr. -ique, from L. -icus, which in many cases represents Gk. -ikos "in the manner of; pertaining to." From PIE *-(i)ko, which also yielded Slavic -isku, adj. suffix indicating origin, the source of the -sky (Rus. -skii) in many surnames.
-ical Look up -ical at
adj. suffix, mostly the same as -ic but sometimes with specdialized sense (e.g. historic/historical), M.E., from L.L. -icalis, from L. -icus + -alis.


So, we have both <historic> and <historical> -- is there a difference in usage? What is the "specialized sense" referred to? Or are they interchangeable? If they are interchangeable, why did both develop instead of just one?  The word <fantasy> results in <fantastic> but could there also be <fantastical>? I'm not about to say there is no such word, just because I am not sure it exists!  But I never hear of <energetical> being used...only <energetic>.  Is this a case of a word being "morphotactically possible", even if not considered typical usage?  Is it like <more curious> v. <curiouser>?

I find myself wanting to say <lexicographical> or <morphological>, but should it only be <lexicographic> and <morphologic>? If I understood the reason for <historic> and <historical> I might know the answer to the rest of my questions.  I would look it up in my SOED, but it won't be here until Wednesday!


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