Okay, this one is really cool, guys! I’ve long known that stationary (meaning “not moving”) and stationery (meaning “writing materials”) were homophones and that the one with the a was the adjective and the one with the e had to do with writing letters.
But did you know they were related? I just learned this, and it’s a cool story!
So, in the 1700s, most people who were selling things in London would set up stalls in the streets. Many were only permitted to stay in one location for a short time before they’d have to move their stalls. But others had special licenses to stay in one spot indefinitely–to remain stationary. Because they were stationary, they came to be called stationers.
Many of these stationary merchants sold writing goods outside the law offices. And so, because the writing supplies came from stationers, the lawyers began calling it stationery.
Pretty fun, huh? The different spellings have been fixed since the early 1800s.