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I've found some people who were taught the same thing here:
>This appears to be another of the UK/US divisors.
>I actually went to my attic and found my old case of school papers and my old school dictionary (pack rat -- sue me)
>In the UK, we were taught that there were two different words. SepArate, a verb: "We need to separate those rabbits"
>and SepErate, a noun: "We now keep the rabbits in seperate pens"
>As they provide distinctly different information, they are perfectly valid -- as long as people continue to agree with those meanings.
>separate: to split into two etc. - the act
>seperate: two different things etc. - the result
>This is what I was taught in school.
but I don't know how old they are.