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I'm hoping to find out the history of how "to lie" as in say something dishonest and "to lie" as in rest horizontally end up being spelled the same way.

To lie (lie, lied, lied): a false statement made with deliberate intent to deceive; an intentional untruth; a falsehood.

To lie (lie, lay, lain): to be in a horizontal, recumbent, or prostrate position, as on a bed or the ground; recline.

I looked it up on etymonline, but they didn't provide much insight into that question. It says one is from early 12c and the other late 12c. I'm not well versed in latin, so besides being able to tell that the roots are different in spelling, I couldn't make much from just looking at the roots, either.

If there's such a significant time gap, does that mean one decided to intentionally let the spelling clash? Or was the person coming up with the word unaware of the other? What happened back then?

Unless there's some clear reason (i.e. there's a meaningful connection between the two that I'm not seeing) why would one want the spelling to clash? I'm, of course, assuming nobody would intentionally want the spelling to clash. It would seem like they are way too common of words to end up clashing coincidentally. (At least from a 21c perspective, but may be they weren't back in 12c)

Does anyone have insight into what is the history behind their spelling clash? Or can you tell by looking at the latin roots, something that's non-obvious to me?

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The key point in this question is OP's "why would one want the spelling to clash?" As has been repeatedly pointed out here on ELU, there's no "English Language Design Committee" sitting in overall control of what people say (or indeed write, but writing is a very poor second to speech in the overall context of language development). They arise quite naturally in the first place, and provided there's no real scope for ambiguity, there's no pressure for homophones or homographs to be weeded out. So I'm voting to re-close, since I didn't use up my vote to close first time around. –  FumbleFingers Dec 10 '12 at 3:03
    
'[...] no "English Language Design Committee"' unless you consider the work of Noah Webster and his contemporaries. –  Ian Atkin Dec 13 '12 at 22:29
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2 Answers

The similarities are between lie and lay. Copying from one site,

The "lie versus lay" debate is particularly confusing, for 3 main reasons:

1.) Their spellings are similar, but not the same.

2.) Their meanings are similar, but not the same.

3.) The past tense of lie is the present tense of lay...

The past tense of lie is lay.

The tiger lay on the ground.

The past tense of lay is laid.

I laid my hat on the shelf.

Another interesting thing about lie is there's a phrase called "lying down" which means "to passively accept something"

Also:

Lie means to be in a horizontal position or be situated and it DOES NOT take a direct object. example: I just want to lie down and go to sleep.

Lie also means to tell a falsehood, and it does not take a direct object. example:Whenever someone asks me my age: I lie.

See the tenses of each of these words.

Lay (lay, laid, laid): I lay spoons on the table. I laid spoons on the table. I have laid spoons on the table.
Lie (lie, lay, lain): I need to lie down. I was tired so I lay down. I am comfortable now that I have laid down.
Lie (lie, lied, lied): I lie about my age. When asked my age: I lied. I have lied about my age.

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This is informative, but unfortunately doesn't address OP's question, which is about two words which have the same spelling: the strong verb lie you write about and the weak verb lie meaning prevaricate or mislead. –  StoneyB Dec 9 '12 at 19:55
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Taken from Online Etymology Dictionary

lie (v.1)

"speak falsely, tell an untruth," late 12c., from O.E. legan, ligan, earlier leogan "deceive, belie, betray" (class II strong verb; past tense leag, pp. logen), from P.Gmc. *leugan (cf. O.N. ljuga, Dan. lyve, O.Fris. liaga, O.S., O.H.G. liogan, Ger. lügen, Goth. liugan), from PIE root *leugh- "to tell a lie."

lie (v.2)

"rest horizontally," early 12c., from O.E. licgan (class V strong verb; past tense læg, pp. legen) "be situated, reamin; be at rest, lie down," from P.Gmc. *legjanan (cf. O.N. liggja, O.Fris. lidzia, M.Du. ligghen, Du. liggen, O.H.G. ligen, Ger. liegen, Goth. ligan), from PIE *legh- "to lie, lay" (cf. Hittite laggari "falls, lies," Gk. lekhesthai "to lie down," L. lectus "bed," O.C.S. lego "to lie down," Lith. at-lagai "fallow land," O.Ir. laigim "I lie down," Ir. luighe "couch, grave"). To lie with "have sexual intercourse" is from c.1300, and cf. O.E. licgan mid "cohabit with." To take (something) lying down "passively, submissively" is from 1854.

You can see that both words have different roots (legan v. licgan) but converged together in terms of spelling. It is apparently, totally coincidental as you can see there is no similarity in meaning or prior spelling along the way.

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Yes, I did look that up on Etymo-online, but I was hoping to get some more info... If it's conclusive to say that they were coincidental from just reading Etymo online, I wonder if that implies that in order for them to converge coincidentally I wonder if that means they were being used in different regions or something so that one word came about in the absence of another? –  Seung Chan Lim Dec 9 '12 at 16:21
    
BTW, apologies for not having explicitly stated above where I've already looked. I feel as if I have wasted your time. –  Seung Chan Lim Dec 9 '12 at 18:01
    
@SeungChanLim: that's why it's always a good idea to present your prior research with the question. I thought you did pretty well with your edit, though. Stick around and keep up the good work. Incidentally, you might find it interesting that, 300 years ago, "LIES" was often spelled with a "Y" instead of an "I", at least in cemeteries. –  J.R. Dec 13 '12 at 22:10
    
Here lyes the body of Edward Dean –  Ian Atkin Dec 13 '12 at 22:29
    
@J.R. Ha.... Fascinating... Thanks for that info! and Ian for the photo! –  Seung Chan Lim Dec 13 '12 at 23:38
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