Frank Pierce
Can anyone explain the unique use of the word "spell" to indicate a break, a period of time, a relief from work?

As in:

Come in and set a spell.

After a workout, I need to spell myself for ten minutes of rest.

I spelled the First Mate at the end of the mid-watch.

It obviously has no relationship to correct orthograph. Could it perhaps have a common ancestry with the German word Spiel, relating to fun or a game or a toy?

One theory goes that it comes from the Old English, spala, which meant something like "stand-in," or "surrogate."
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