It seemed like a good idea at the time

Things are the way they are because they got that way … one logical step at a time.” — Gerald Weinberg

English spelling is notoriously difficulty. It is the result of decisions that, while often unfortunate, were not unreasonable at the time.

Sometimes pronunciation simplified but spelling remained unchanged. For example, originally all the letters in knife were pronounced. In software development lingo, some spellings were retained for backward compatibility.

Sometimes pronunciation was chosen to reflect etymology. This seems like a strange choice now, but it made more sense at a time when Latin and French were far more commonly known in England, and a time when loan words were pouring into English. These choices have turned out to be unfortunate, but they were not malicious.

For more on this story, see Episode 153: Zombie Letters from The History of English Podcast.

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