Trump: 'Never a Special Councel Appointed!'

Is it 'council' or 'counsel'?

Lookups for both council and counsel spiked on May 18, 2017, after President Trump used the spelling councel in a tweet:

With all of the illegal acts that took place in the Clinton campaign & Obama Administration, there was never a special councel appointed!

This is the second time in ten days that the president has misspelled counsel on Twitter, the previous time in a tweet on May 8:

Ask Sally Yates, under oath, if she knows how classified information got into the newspapers soon after she explained it to W.H. Council.

Council and counsel are often and easily confused: council refers to “an assembly or meeting for consultation, advice, or discussion,” whereas counsel means either “advice” or “a lawyer who represents a person or group in a court of law.” (Counsel is also used as a verb meaning “to advise.”) The two words are similar for a reason: they come from the same source, entering English from French in the Middle Ages and ultimately tracing back to the Latin word concilium meaning “ecclesiastical assembly.”

The distinction we know today between these two words dates to around 1700; until then, these words were used for centuries with varying and overlapping spellings. Many confusing homophones in English are words that similarly share roots, like principal/principle and capitol/capital. Since the letter C is almost always soft in pronunciation before I, E, and Y in English, it’s pronounced just like an S in words like cancel and parcel.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, these various variant spellings included:

conseill, counsell, counceyl, counsail

And, in the 17th century, both council and counsel were also sometimes spelled the president’s way, councel.

For council:

Then gathered the chiefe Priests and the Pharises a councel.
King James Bible, John 11:47, 1611

And for counsel:

In Misdemeanour Councel is to be allowed for the Prisoner, but not in Treason.
The arraignment, tryal and condemnation of Stephen Colledge, 1681

There is a dictionary entry for special counsel, defined as "counsel appointed to fill a particular need; specifically capitalized : a government official charged with protecting employees from illegal practices by employers and especially from employer reprisal for whistleblowing."

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