April 19, 2014

"A History of the Letter W."

There are, I think, 2 main questions people have if they stop and think about the letter W: 1. Why is it called double-U when it looks like double-V? and 2. Since we can spell words with double letters, why did this one instance of a double letter become a letter of its own? It was the second question — I think the first is silly — that got me looking for an answer. The history of W is explained in detail at Wikipedia, and quickly and amusingly in this video:

13 comments:

Zhen said...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bkiCTDcV51k

This is the first thing I thought of at seeing your title.

traditionalguy said...

In school the W last name makes you sit behind all except x,y,z folks.

I always felt sorry for the girl named Zimmerman who was dead last. But we got to be friends.

Art in LA said...

Well, it's "double-v" in French ...

The Godfather said...

Yet in German the W is pronounced like a V: Wasser is pronounced vasser, etc. Several years ago on a tour in the Wachau Valley in Austria, our guide (thinking he was being funny, I think) told us that the name was pronounced Vachau Walley.

Skyler said...

The video didn't even address "wh" which is pronounced "hw" and was originally spelled that way too. In Icelandic and possibly other Germanic languages it is still seen as "hv" but it is pronounced as "kv."

They also left out the history of the "sw" starting words such as swear or sword. The w was pronounced and then silent and now seems to be either.

Big Mike said...

'W' is meant to trouble you.

Crazy Jane said...

When I studied Italian, I was told that Caesar's famous statement, "Veni, Vidi, Vici," was actually pronounced "Weni, Widi, Wici."

No idea how this was established 2,000 years later.

John said...

I blame George Bush the younger.

In seriousness, I always knew that Guillermo (spanish) and William were equivalent.

Never knew why, though. The Spanish G apparently became the English W.

Thanks Ann.

John Henry

The Godfather said...

@Crazy Jane, my high school Latin teacher swore he had a recording of Caesar prove weni, widi, wici -- of course, it was a long time ago: Probably reel to reel.

Michael Deloatch said...

Channeling my inner ancient Phoenician, all I can say is "waw, just waw..."

Michael Deloatch said...

I always struggled in German 101. If "W" = english "v" and "V" = english "f", why doesn't German "F" = english "w" ? What sort of consonant substitution cypher are they running, anyway?

vicari valdez said...

nice animation, and very informative. thank you for sharing, professor.

Harold said...

ß I think that will come out right. The English alphabet isn't the only one, and German has a letter for "double s"