The Principles of Principals

I always get a kick out of seeing my American-born friends often write principle when they mean principal. Another mistake I see is writing recieve/concieve instead of receive/conceive.

I often wonder why such mistakes are so glaring to me. Here’s what I’m thinking…

Sound vs Meaning

When I’m about to write a sentence that requires either the word principle or principal, I’m not thinking of their sound; I’m thinking of their meaning.

Visual images come to mind as I think of their meaning, and they’re often connected to how I’ve learned those meanings in my primary language (Brazilian Portuguese). So if I’m about to write “The kids were called by the school’s principal“, the image in my mind is that of the main person at the school. On the other hand, if I’m about to write “The kids were schooled on principles“, the immediate connection in my mind is a fundamental truth.

Side note: I’ve recently noticed someone using “verses” when they meant “versus” (maybe they should have stuck with “vs”?)

English as Second Language

In the case of words such as receive and conceive, I do believe I’m never confused about their spelling because of their Portuguese counterparts: receber and conceber.

So when I think of the word that means I’ll be given something, the immediate spelling connection starts as “rece…” (from “receber”), and then my mind makes the quick switch into English, “receive“.

Errors and Relatable Mistakes

It’s interesting for me when I’m in a group of people conversing in English, and many members of this group aren’t native English speakers.

While some of our mistakes may simply sound like plain errors to a native speaker, they’re relatable mistakes for me.

For example, I’ve heard colleagues from India and Mexico say a sentence such as “I did it today morning“, instead of “I did it this morning“; I used to make the same mistake many years ago because that’s how the sentence would structurally go in Brazilian Portuguese.

Words, Meaning, Context, Perspective

Words are important.
Their meaning is more important.
Context drives meaning.
Perspectives help identify and understand the context.

It’s interesting to see how the mind makes these connections.

Please share any resources you might know that could help me understand this better.

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