‘ax’ versus ‘axe’

The reason that the longer ‘axe’ has prevailed over the shorter, more phonetic ‘ax’ is that the pronunciation of this word happens to coincide with the widely prevalent substandard pronunciation of ‘ask’ (which is also sometimes written ‘ax’). Educated people seek to distance themselves from this substandard status by using the longer form ‘axe’ in writing.
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[English spelling variants]