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  • People often think the word "doubt" spelling is a little crazy

  • because of the letter "b".

  • Since it doesn't spell a sound,

  • most folks can't figure out what it's doing there.

  • But in spite of what most of us learn in school,

  • sound is never the most important aspect

  • of spelling an English word.

  • A word's meaning and history need to come first.

  • To doubt means to question,

  • to waver,

  • to hesitate.

  • As a noun, it means uncertainty or confusion.

  • The present-day English word "doubt"

  • started as a Latin word, "dubitare".

  • It first moved from Latin into French

  • where it lost both its "buh" sound and its letter "b".

  • And then it came into English in the 13th century.

  • About 100 years later,

  • scribes who wrote English but also knew Latin,

  • started to reinsert the "b" into the word's spelling,

  • even though no one pronounced it that way.

  • But why would they do this?

  • Why would anyone in their right mind

  • reinsert a silent letter into a spelling?

  • Well, because they knew Latin,

  • the scribes understood that the root of "doubt" had a "b" in it.

  • Over time, even as fewer literate people knew Latin,

  • the "b" was kept because it marked important,

  • meaningful connections to other related words,

  • like "dubious" and "indubitably,"

  • which were subsequently borrowed into English

  • from the same Latin root, "dubitare".

  • Understanding these historical connections

  • not only helped us to spell "doubt,"

  • but also to understand the meaning

  • of these more sophisticated words.

  • But the story doesn't end there.

  • If we look even deeper,

  • we can see beyond the shadow of a doubt,

  • just how revealing that "b" can be.

  • There are only two base words in all of English

  • that have the letters "d-o-u-b":

  • one is doubt,

  • and the other is double.

  • We can build lots of other words

  • on each of these bases,

  • like doubtful

  • and doubtless,

  • or doublet,

  • and redouble,

  • and doubloon.

  • It turns out that if we look into their history,

  • we can see that they both derive

  • from the same Latin forms.

  • The meaning of double,

  • two,

  • is reflected in a deep understanding of doubt.

  • See, when we doubt,

  • when we hesitate,

  • we second guess ourselves.

  • When we have doubts about something,

  • when we have questions or confusion,

  • we are of two minds.

  • Historically, before English began

  • to borrow words from French,

  • it already had a word for doubt.

  • That Old English word was "tweogan,"

  • a word whose relationship to "two"

  • is clear in its spelling as well.

  • So the next time you are in doubt

  • about why English spelling works the way it does,

  • take a second look.

  • What you find just might make you do a double-take.

People often think the word "doubt" spelling is a little crazy

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B1 TED-Ed doubt spelling latin english word hesitate

【TED-Ed】Why is there a "b" in doubt? - Gina Cooke

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    VoiceTube posted on 2014/05/28
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