While checking over a recent math test, I started keeping track of the variety of spellings I saw for the word <answer>. Anyone from the dubious phonics brigade want to explain that <w>? Not surprisingly, each of the misspellings included that “mystery” letter, but with no previous explanation for its presence in the word, students placed it in a range of locations.
*anwser *awsner *anwers *ansewr
This is what happens when students are taught to rely on visual memory for spelling. While going over the test, we headed to Etymonline for an investigation!
Hmmm… “against affirmation” and an original sense of “make a sworn statement rebutting a charge.” And a connection to “swear,” already we have evidence of why the <w> is present. Let’s follow <swear>.
“Also related to the second element in answer.”
Postulated word sum: <an> + <swer>
We enjoy finding an etymological explanation for spellings such as <answer> and <sign> and <two>. Much better than relying on mnemonics. How ridiculous is this one?!