Rogue Words from A to Z: Endeavouring to Push the Envelope

A to Z Letter ESpecial delivery! Here comes another rogue word for us to rip apart: envelope.

The word envelope is derived from the French word enveloppe (from envelopper, which means to envelop).

There are a number of difficulties in spelling this tricky word. Native French speakers often struggle with envelope in English because it has one p rather than two. But even native English speakers can have trouble: namely, understanding when to use envelope and when to use envelop.

Envelope (with an e, pronounced Ehn-vuh-LOPE or Ahn-vuh-LOPE) is a noun meaning a wrapper or enclosure. When applied to aircraft or other technology, it means a set of accepted performance limits. This is where we get the phrase “pushing the envelope.”

The explorers were excited when the new spacecraft was completed. They hoped to push the envelope of space exploration during their upcoming voyage.

Envelop (without the e, pronounced ehn-VEH-lup) is a verb meaning to completely enclose or surround something. Like many other verbs, -ed is added to the end when it is used in the past tense (enveloped).

The black velvet night enveloped the explorers’ spacecraft as they sped away from the Earth to a faraway galaxy.

For several years, Earth heard nothing from the brave pioneers. The head of the Space Exploration Agency felt as if he were enveloped in despair. His daughter had insisted on joining the outbound team, and now she was lost to him. He wondered why he even bothered to come in to the office any more.

Then one day he walked in and discovered a strangely glowing envelope on his desk. He carefully opened it up and read the words, “We made it, Dad!”

There was a blaze of warm light, and he felt his daughter’s arms envelop him in an enormous hug.

Bonus Word: Endeavour

Endeavour is another tricky word to spell.

Space Shuttle EndeavourTo help you remember the “ea” part of endeavour, think of yourself as an explorer going “full speed ahead” on an endeavour. Ahead has an “ea” combination just like the “ea” in endeavour.

Endeavour is also tricky because the ending is spelled -our in British English and -or in American English. Even NASA had trouble getting this one sorted out.

Which spelling do you prefer, endeavor or endeavour? And where will you go exploring today?


Picture of space shuttle Endeavour from NASA

This post is dedicated to Celine Jeanjean, Naturelover, and Nicole De Courval. Thanks for reading!

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post, where I will flatten the formidable letter F…


© Sue Archer and Doorway Between Worlds, 2015

61 thoughts on “Rogue Words from A to Z: Endeavouring to Push the Envelope

  1. I enjoyed this so much. I spell the last word like this: “endeavor”. There are some other words to which I sometimes ad a “U”. Savior can be Saviour.

    Do you like acrostic poems? I just finished the longest one I have ever done, and posted it as my “E” word. Here it is: “Eupatorium Colestinum”

    Have a great day! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That’s funny about NASA. I was thinking “it’s not misspelled for us Yanks” but, then, I guess it actually was. D’oh! And I liked your story. Warm, enveloping hugs are always nice. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Luckily, because I have to teach the beautiful phonics rule that is Magic E, I don’t have much trouble with envelop or envelope, though endeavor is an amusing one. As I’m American, I’ll cut the long u sound, but editing work for so many people in different countries has messed up my spelling in the long run, haha. They’re JUST different enough to make me always question my spelling.

    Alex Hurst, A Fantasy Author in Kyoto
    A-Z Blogging in April Participant

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m curious, have you run across a good link for that Magic E rule?

      I hear you about messed-up spelling…I find the trickiest part of editing is correcting those things that are not actually “wrong” but aren’t “right” for that audience!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Ah, another good one. I’ve had to catch myself on this one a couple times. Along a similar vein, I sometimes note ‘breath’ and ‘breathe’ misused. It’s easy to forget to add the ending ‘e’ when referring to the verb.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Your little story explained well the use of envelope & envelop. I always enjoy the sci-fi twist 🙂
    Endeavour, is the way I learned it. “our” – I like the look of those words ending with “our”, a tradition of some kind, that I want to preserve. thanks for this educative session! Exploring today…if I get time, in more posts of the A to Z challenge!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I always spell endeavor wrong (I tend to use the British way; and yes, when I typed it here that way, it came out as misspelled LOL Thank goodness for the spellcheck!) And envelope / enveloped: don’t even get me started. This is a word my students–and even I– type wrong and I have, on occasion, missed it on re-reads! I think I read it so fast my brain just twists the word into whatever I need to be at the time. I need to be more vigilant with those words. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Kat! It’s hard to make your brain slow down, isn’t it? One of the fun tips I have learned as a proofreader is to only read two or three words at a time, and to read them in strange groupings (like groups that go across sentences) so you are really looking at the words, rather than thinking about the meaning. Time-consuming, but it works! 🙂


  7. I more often read “endeavour” (it seems like more Brits use it in their writing than Americans do) so when I write “endeavor” (because I’m American) it looks funny to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Hi Sue. I never knew about the phrase pushing the envelope’s connection with aircraft or other technology. I learned something new today. And every time the “u” is missing from words (Canadian spelling) the word looks naked to me, haha.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Another great set of words. I think you enveloped the topic nicely 🙂 I used to use the English spellings in school just to aggravate my teachers 🙂 Yes, I was one of ‘those’ students.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Oh this is great – I hadn’t known about the envelope / envelop difference, I guess spellcheck sorted that one for me until now!
    I guess for us frenchies there are three levels of difficulty to the word envelope then – e or no e, and one p or two!!

    By the way I just read a blog post that I thought you’d find interesting:
    Dan mentions how normally ‘de’ as a prefix is a negative (such as deactivate), but in the case of denuding, it isn’t. I thought that was quite interesting, I have no idea why that is, but thought maybe you’d know! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the link, that was an interesting post! I hadn’t looked at it before, but my dictionary says one of the meanings of denuded is to deprive of a possession or attribute. So that’s kind of a negative. Still weird though!


      1. Well yes but nude already means bare – so following the normal rule of the ‘de’ prefix, to denude should be to ‘un’ bare if you see what I mean, and therefore should mean adding, rather than depriving. It’s amusing just how many exceptions there are to each and every rule in the English language!

        Liked by 1 person

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