/w/-/hw/ again

Paul Johnston paul.johnston at WMICH.EDU
Sat Dec 29 07:27:41 UTC 2007

Someone mentioned whole as another example of a wh- word where w was
absorbed.  Actually, whole (and whore, too) never had a historical /
w/, but comes from forms with OE /h-/; the form hale (as in hale and
hearty) is from the same root--only either a Northern form of OE hal,
or its Norse cognate heill.  The <wh-> spellings may come from one of
those English dialects which turn words beginning with an initial
back vowel, or h + initial back vowel into w(h) + back vowel.  The
same rule generated our Standard pronunciation of one, which should
have developed to /o:n/.  Forms like /(h)w^l/ are found in the Survey
of English Dialects.

Paul Johnston
On Dec 27, 2007, at 4:41 PM, Philip E. Cleary wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Philip E. Cleary" <philipcleary at RCN.COM>
> Subject:      /w/-/hw/ again
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> ---------
>  From a recent column about a legendary Boston politician:
> <Freddie’s greatest moment came during his Parkman House hearings,
> when
> he exposed Mayor White’s profligate spending at his palatial home away
> from home.
> “Who ate at the Parkman House?” Freddie thundered, his unlit cigar
> clenched in his teeth. “H-W-O-H - who?”>
> http://www.bostonherald.com/news/opinion/columnists/view.bg?
> articleid=1062332
> Phil Cleary
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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