White Flag -- "rythm", no vowel in

Charles C Doyle cdoyle at UGA.EDU
Tue Mar 20 13:39:47 UTC 2012

Let us remember that, in a historical sense, "w" used to represent "double u"!  Is it possible that some such vestigial recollection was the basis for the old grammar-school coda to the English vowel list, "and sometimes . . . w"?  In manuscripts and early printed documents, occasionally "w" will appear where a "single u" would be customary--possibly a random variant, or maybe an indicator of lengthening?

One of my favorite innovative spellings is the forename of the baseball player Andruw Jones.  The name ends in three u's!


From: American Dialect Society [ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] on behalf of Jonathan Lighter [wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM]
Sent: Tuesday, March 20, 2012 9:12 AM

Is it possible that the vowel classification of "w" was designed to cover
these OE exx.?

After all, English is English!

As for "cwm," it may seem like a cheat to some, but the OED cites show it
in English geology discourse, without apology, italics, or quotation marks
as far back as 1882.  That would make it no more non-English than a word
like "eclair."

Nor are cwms restricted to travels in Wales. There's even a cwm on Mount


On Tue, Mar 20, 2012 at 8:50 AM, Amy West <medievalist at w-sts.com> wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Amy West <medievalist at W-STS.COM>
> Subject:      Re: White Flag  -- "rythm", no vowel in
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------=
> On 3/20/12 12:02 AM, Automatic digest processor wrote:
> > Date:    Mon, 19 Mar 2012 18:25:06 -0700
> > From:    Benjamin Barrett<gogaku at IX.NETCOM.COM>
> > Subject: Re: White Flag  -- "rythm", no vowel in
> >
> > I recall only "y," but Googling shows that some teachers toss the "w" =
> > in.
> >
> > The Grammar Girl covers it at =3D
> > http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/when-is-w-a-vowel.aspx, basically =
> > saying that "w" is a vowel when used in a diphthong like in "how" or =
> > "show."
> Hmmm. . . .I remembered the OE spelling of just "hu"; the OED shows the
> -w coming in/being expressed in Middle English: hv, hwu, wu, quhu,
> qu(u)ow, heu, ou, heou, ME hw, ME ( w)hou=C8=9D, whou, hwou, wou=C8=9D, w=
o, w,
> Kent. hue), ME=E2=80=9315 hou, ME=E2=80=93 how, (ME hov, ME=E2=80=9315 wh=
ow, Sc. quhou, quhow,
> ME howghe, owe, hough(e, who, ME=E2=80=9316 howe, 15 whoe)
> The ety gives the constructed Germanic stem as hwo.
> And as for "show" (v.) we have OE sceawian. So there the -w- 's been
> there for awhile, but it's definitely *not* acting vowel like in that for=
> So, again I'm resisting the designation of -w as a vowel, again on
> etymological grounds as opposed to phonological grounds, when, as a
> Welsh American, I have every reason to push for -w- as a vowel. :-)
> --
> ---Amy West

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