RE "whup" - "whoop"

Dennis R. Preston preston at MSU.EDU
Sun Nov 27 15:42:15 UTC 2005

This (w)hu~oop bidness is indeed complicated. These seem to be the players:

Chiefly Southern US, "whup," almost certainly a Scottish version of
"whip," is pronounced with both /hw/ and /w/ and with both the CUT
vowel and the BOOK vowel. The latter pronunciation perhaps gives rise
to the temptation for "oo" spellings, which some of us have found
odd. I certainly do. I can get the BOOK vowel from "u" spellings
(e.g., "butcher"), but I admit the list of "u" spellings for BOOK
vowels seems short.

The potential confusion with "whoop" is obvious, although the
spellings and pronunciations of this item are most curious. It
appears to be Middle English, from Old French "hopper" with a similar
meaning to today's "yell." But this French "h" word was often
rendered as "wh" (look at what happened to OE "whore"!). It seems to
me, however, that the ME "wh" spelling rendered all three
possibilities (/w/, /hw/, and /h/) in modern pronunciation (is this
the only example?). Even though I am a good /hw/-er, I am tempted to
give this item the /h/ pronunciation in "hoopin' and hollerin'" from
an alliterative attraction. Of course, the usual reduction of /hw/ is
to /w/, and I have indeed heard all three possibilities in "whooping
crane" and "whooping cough."

dInIs, whose spellings are clear
1) I whup guys littler'n me
2) I whoop it up when I am in a joyful mood (and even when I am
"/hupIn/ and hollerin'," my spelling is still "wh."
3) I shoot hoops
I have great sympathy for those whose phonologies are not so well
tuned to their orthographies.

Dennis R. Preston
University Distinguished Professor
Department of English
Morrill Hall 15-C
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824-1036 USA
Office: (517) 353-4736
Fax: (517) 353-3755

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