Back to school time: a time when proprietors try to cash in on young ones’ collective desire for decorative protractors, pens and paraphernalia. It is also a time when signage misspelling abounds. The A-board to the right was in my shopping precinct. Homophones are tricky. Here’s the correct usage:
Stationary: adjective; not moving.
Stationery: noun; writing materials.
The way that I was taught to remember this is to think of the -er in paper. “I bought pap-er from a station-er.”
Their etymology is linked. They both originate in the Latin stationarius, which comes from stare which means ‘to stand’. You are stationary when you are standing in one place. Also, stationer (a person who sells stationery) was a tradesperson who had set up at a fixed location and was therefore standing in the same spot, stationary.
One more time:
“The paper is stationery.”
“The car is stationary.”
I hope that was helpful. How do you remember it? Comments welcome!