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The 23rd letter of the English alphabet is a bit of a wonder. The humble “w” is the only letter of the alphabet with a three-syllable name. It is also the only letter with a name that does not indicate its phonetic use. The complications of “w” are doublefold because of it’s name, ‘double u’ and its shape, ‘double v’. What’s going on here?

In English, /w/ typically reads as a voiced labio-velar approximate. In other words, “wa.” However, in other Germanic languages, /w/ reads like “v”. Think of the famous phrase by Swedish acting legend Greta Garbo, “I vant to be let alone.”

(If you enjoy this history, you’ll love to meet two extinct letters of the alphabet, right here.)

In Classical Latin, the /w/ sound was represented by the letter “v”. Through the years, the language shifted, the sound associated with the Latin “v” became a voiced bilabial fricative — like the “v” in “vampire.” Meanwhile, another sound was forming out of v, the /u/. At first glance “u” shouldn’t be part of our story, however its representation and relation to the sound /v/ in spelling give it an indirect and important role in shaping the letter “w”.

 To distinguish the sound of “w” from either “v” or the up and coming “u”, a double form of “u” was taken to represent the original Classical Latin “v”, written as ‘uu.’ Compound letters used to represent a phoneme are called a digraph. The earliest writing with the digraph “uu” dates to 8th Century writers of Old High German. This is a standard that came with the Normans into England after the invasion of 1066.

Fast forward to 1300. With the French-speaking Normans ruling England for a couple hundred years,the English language rapidly evolves from Old English or Anglo-Saxon into Middle English. Runes are replaced in writing by Latin letters. The orthographic rules set down for Brythographic (Celtic) languages, however, differ on the island from developments taking place in continental Europe. There the pronunciation of “w” shifts to /v/ in other Germanic languages. Even while letter forms become standardized across Europe thanks to the printing press, the pronunciation of the English “w” remains. Weird way to work with words, we wager.

188 Comments

  1. Y U NO PRONOUNCE? -  March 4, 2014 - 2:38 pm

    MIND BLOWN. Now…why do we not pronounce eleven onety one?

    Reply
  2. OCHIENG BRIAN OTIENO -  January 25, 2014 - 12:09 pm

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    Reply
  3. Pagane -  December 11, 2013 - 9:38 pm

    You cannot give ‘vampire’ as an example. It is a Bulgarian word. The original spelling in Bulgarian is with ‘V’ in Cyrillic. That is why it is written with V in English.

    Reply
  4. Avettinee -  June 23, 2012 - 11:28 am

    [http://labor-studies.org/ buy klonopin without prescriptions] – generic klonopin not effective

    Reply
  5. sherryyu -  June 9, 2012 - 2:56 pm

    will theis is a very good article here i stomploed oupon

    Reply
  6. James -  April 18, 2012 - 8:39 pm

    I don’t think voiced bilabial fricative ever existed in English….

    Reply
  7. talles -  April 11, 2012 - 1:09 pm

    m is an bilabial aspirant drew

    (damn, this thing doesnt have reply button)

    Reply
  8. ... -  April 10, 2012 - 7:26 pm

    ….vait vhat

    Reply
  9. sithembiso -  April 10, 2012 - 9:03 am

    i always knew there was a vald reoson behind the “w” thanks for the information, now i can explain with confidents to my my peers.

    Reply
  10. Puggle91 -  April 9, 2012 - 6:49 pm

    @ Mrs Dean Wormer on February 3, 2011 at 8:28 am

    I’m going to form a band called the Bilabial Fricatives. Who is with me?!

    … I could just imagine what the average Joe would think of that name… he he he.
    I mean – what else could be extrapolated from something with two lips and a bit of friction?

    Reply
  11. Cathleen -  March 28, 2012 - 6:45 am

    [v] is a voiced labiodental fricative. I’m a student of English linguistics and I can confirm that this is true. You can look this stuff up on wikipedia, too.

    Reply
  12. Michelle -  March 11, 2012 - 7:33 am

    Well, I just wanted to tell you that I write W(s) with double U(s) instead of double V(s).

    Reply
  13. tahrey -  April 26, 2011 - 4:06 am

    Heh, I was just wondering that. Maybe Vacuum should actually be written Vacwm, but escaped that change because most languages (other than Welsh) don’t see W as a vowel any more?

    Here’s a challenge: name three other words, besides vacuum / vacwm and continuum / continwm which have two consecutive u’s in them…

    Reply
  14. ME -  April 9, 2011 - 7:53 am

    What about the uu in words like vacuum?

    Reply
  15. Thauron -  March 24, 2011 - 6:13 pm

    If we look at history, the Romans didn’t have ‹u› and the *earliest* rule was ‹v› if it was the first letter of the word, ‹u› if it was anywhere else. ‹U› spent the middle ages gaining it’s own identity as a vowel and from there to the modern world.

    ‹W› originated as a digraph ‹vv› common in Old High German, but uncommon in Old English were /w/ (the sound) was represented with the runic ‹Ƿ› (Thorn). Going back to what we know about ‹v› & ‹u› the two where, at one point, interchangeable based on where the letter was in the word. Thus /w/ could be represented as ‹vv› or ‹uu› double-ve (French, Spanish et al.) or double-you (English).

    ***

    “Through the years, the language shifted, the sound associated with the Latin ‹v› became a voiced bilabial fricative — like the ‹v› in ‘vampire.’”

    Basically states:

    “The Romans used to sound like Germans, before they sounded like Spanish, French and Italians”

    Hogwash.

    Until very recently, it was customary to pronounce Latin in one’s native accent. There were no native speakers and even if we could time travel there would be regional and socio-economic variations. My own experience is Latin is comfortably pronounced in the middle, not the front, of the mouth.

    Presently, we have two dominant systems: “Ecclesiastical” Latin which is the way it is spoken by Italians native to Rome and “Classical” Latin which is a reconstruction based on scholarly evidence. Most of the time there is plenty of evidence for the “Classical” pronunciation, with the exception of “‹v› like /w/” which is often simply shoehorned into the grammar with a stern look from the teacher.

    Reply
    • lee -  June 23, 2014 - 10:26 am

      I’ve seen this way more often than the uu explanation, which I’ve only seen here.
      Hell, vv is even in the Ni No PS3 game, and that’s Japanese trying to explain the history of ‘w’.

      The explanation in the game is that w used to be vv. This is because v had two uses (as v and u), which is the same as c having two sounds (scene ‘cine’ and cake ‘kake’).

      Therefore vv would have pronunciation vu, which sounds aweful lot like w. VUHERE are you? If you start saying it over and over, you lose the sharp v.

      I find it hard to believe that w morphed from uu, because uu is no where near the sound of w. uu sounds more like nordic j. With uuhere sounding like ‘yee-air’. Whereas vu is so close.

      Reply
  16. RJ -  March 24, 2011 - 7:11 am

    In French, the letter “V” is pronounced “vay,” and “W” is pronounced “du-blah-vay” (aka “double v”). =]

    Reply
  17. Sethamevor -  March 22, 2011 - 11:47 pm

    The lesson ,s takken me to school once again.

    Reply
  18. book_addict247 -  March 7, 2011 - 5:18 pm

    In the first paragraph, towards the end, you misused “it’s”. It should be “its”. “It’s” always means “it is” (I learned that from Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events! Books, not movie.), but you used it possessively. Yes, there’s nothing you can do about it now, the damage is done, but be careful. Really.

    Reply
  19. FooGriffy -  February 21, 2011 - 9:14 am

    I write both capitol and lower-case w’s like two u’s.

    Reply
  20. Ian -  February 19, 2011 - 9:04 am

    “im 13 and learning new i look up to you for putting these articles” …

    Me too, Perle, I learn every day – and the web is a great tool.

    Good luck to you – Ian

    Reply
  21. perle -  February 18, 2011 - 8:41 am

    this is really interesting stuff im 13 and learning new i look up to you for putting these articles

    Reply
  22. Ian -  February 18, 2011 - 4:51 am

    Hello, Zippi – Thanks for yours and for your interesting observations. (In view of his comments on the length of your contribution I just hope that John Rhea doesn’t see my last effort and this one … he’ll think I’ve had a crate-load of drink delivered, alas untrue … )

    Latin in Italy ? Well, hardly – Italy didn’t exist at that time and folk in what is now Italy would have spoken their own languages, letting the Romans get on with theirs. Even today, (as you know) many Italians prefer to speak other Italian languages or dialects, at least at home.

    I know nothing of any of this, but I guess that the Latin alphabet was suitable for … Latin – though God knows there were no academies around at that time insisting that sound and written symbol correspond exactly (which they can’t …) We must remember that Latin did not rise immaculate from the ashes of earlier failures, and did not appear as an invented language with a perfectly-precise correlation between written and spoken forms – or so we must suppose, if other languages are any guide.

    As for the connexion between classical Latin and modern Italian (based largely, I understand, on the Tuscan tongue), it is not perhaps that close : Spanish verb forms, for instance, are closer to those of Latin than their Italian equivalents (I stand to be corrected, here as elsewhere), and, as in English and French, I understand that many ‘Latin’ words in Italian were dragged back into that language, kicking and screaming, during the Renaissance and later.

    In any case, the connexion between the speech patterns of Roman citizens two thousand years ago and those of modern Italians (very varied) is not so clear. Presumably, those ‘evolving’ the Romance languages ‘from’ Latin with admixtures of elements form the ‘home languages’, in regions now known as France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Romania, &c., felt they were doing a pretty good job of reproducing the sounds they heard and what writing they read …

    Hmmm …

    Nearer to home, those living intimately with monastics in Wales probably felt the same : and yet, along with recognisable forms such as ‘pont’, ‘eglwys’ and ‘ysgol’, we have the wonderful ‘llyfyrgell’ (‘library’ – think French ‘livre’ and ‘cell’ and the elegant ‘eglwys gadeiriol’ (cathedral church), from the Welsh ‘cadeir’, ‘chair’, Latin (and English) ‘cathedra’ < Greek 'kathédra'

    And just how was Latin pronounced .. ? Presumably, it depended on where you were, when you were, how well educated you were, your mother tongue, your status, &c. …

    Sorry – I ought to have been more specific about English spelling and pronunciation. I ought to have made clear that I spoke of changes since the last systematic standardisations of English spelling. I ought to have written something along the lines (and I could have done no better) of -

    "In general, English spelling does not reflect the significant changes in the pronunciation of the language that have occurred since the late fifteenth century." – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_orthography

    An very interesting article …

    I work as a singer, and problems of modern pronunciation v. archaic orthography are evident in texts from even as late as the 19th century. For instance, the vowel heard in educated British speech in the word 'love' is, I am told, a mid -or late-19th century affection, and as such is a minefield for singers and actors alike. Of course, in the North and Midlands we have no truck with this and continue to give this vowel its more primitive, 'continental', value, as do all British speakers in words such as 'put', 'cushion' and 'butcher'.

    This solves at a stroke problems with rhyme-schemes : I am at present working on a lute song (c. 1600) by the very wonderful John Dowland, whose poet rhymes 'love' with 'move' (or as it there appears, 'moove'). Less of a problem for those born north of the famous 'Bugger Line' (the vowel change boundary), somewhere out Leicester way, I'm sure you'll agree, but all the same troubling.

    So you see, English pronunciation is changing (and quite right too, you'll say) … whereas the spelling quite obviously isn't.

    (The same is happening in France, where I live, with the nasal vowel. A Great Vowel Shift is now taking place : the nasalised 'A' sound in 'bien' (and that Quebecers still pronounce that word with a nasalised 'E', is an indication of an earlier vowel shift) is more and more pronounced as 'biOn' [I have no way on this keyboard of indicating nasal vowels but they should be so assumed], and 'bon' is spiraling out of control towards something like 'bUn'. Doubtless you will have remarked parallel phenomena in Italian.)

    Other modern European languages do make the effort to reform their spelling systems to reflect modern pronunciation (once every 10 years, I have heard, for Dutch), whereas English doesn't and hasn't, apart from the minor (and very logical) efforts of Noah Webster – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Webster's_Dictionary – and others.

    This is one of the problems of the English language – and also one of its joys, of course.

    (I somehow doubt, though, that the French Académie will dare touch the nasal sounds I mentioned. It's all really fascinating … )

    The language (or group of languages) to which you refer was written down, I read, only as late as 1978, and so it is no surprise that it should represent fairly accurately the sounds heard – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twi.

    This being said, there are different dialects, I read, and I wonder how this is handled. Again, there is the tonal structure of the languages : these will be handled by diacritics, I guess.

    I must say that I find the search for 100% correlation between what is heard and what is written rather troubling. What we require of writing systems, surely, especially of alphabetic systems, is that they guide us towards a quick understanding of roughly how a language is pronounced, letting us use our ears for the rest of that fascinating voyage.

    And alphabets are truly wonderful in their adaptability. How many languages does the basic Latin alphabet (with adaptations) serve ? 100s, 1,000s ? Who knows ?

    And alphabets really have it for me. In spite of my best efforts, I am handicaped in the learning of my wife's mother tongue, Mandarin, by the knowledge that the pictorial writing system is virtually useless as a guide to pronunciation (although the 'phonetic' element of some characters once was a help, before the pronunciation changed over the course of many centuries).

    Even then, the Mandarin Pinyin system of romanisation has its limits : 'water' is written as 'SHUI' although everyone can hear that it is actually pronounced 'SHUEI' (with the principal vowel being the E, the one omitted !). This is as rendered correctly in the Wade system used in Taiwan, which has just abandoned it for … Pin-Yin ! Ye Gods !!! The 'adaptors' of this system decided (and God only knows why) that THREE vowel sounds written together were one too many, and that the middle one should be binned (but only in certain words !), to the dismay of folk like me …

    Can they get nothing right ?!

    Toodle-Pip !

    Ian

    Reply
  23. Zippi -  February 17, 2011 - 5:57 pm

    Ian, I cited Italian, partly because of my knowledge of it and also because, as far as I am aware, Italy is where Latin originated, thence, where out characters came and therefore, Italian would be the closest representative of how the characters should sound. You say the the pronunciation has shifted over the centuries but not the spelling; this is not entirely true. There are many words of which the spelling had changed and subsequently, the pronunciation has changed; for example, “ageyn” has become “again” and is often pronounced “agen.” To my knowledge, Twi is the most phonetic, written, language; sadly, it is becoming contaminated with “C”, “J” and “Q” which do not exist in the alphabet.
    John Rhea, you made me laugh! Thanks.

    Reply
  24. Ian -  February 17, 2011 - 1:34 pm

    I have enjoyed reading about the letters W, V & U, and understand that they are variants of the same basic letter. In Welsh they were, I understand more or less interchangeable, and the same has been pointed out for earlier English spellings. They are used in specific and non-specific ways in different languages to represent widely-differing sounds – one of the joys of writing systems, I guess. Similar things happen (or happened) in various languages between the letters – F & V – Y & IJ – I, J & Y – G & H … and so on …

    When speaking of ‘phonetic’ and ‘non-phonetic’ systems of writing we should bear in mind that alphabets only approximate spoken sounds, and that these approximations can never be 100% accurate. We should also bear in mind that most (all ?) European languages do their best using variants of the Latin and Greek (and Cyrillic) alphabets not designed, by and large, for the comfort of these various languages, and that much ingenuity has been sown over the centuries : many which use the Latin alphabet stretch its limits through the use of digraphs and / or diacritics : for example, the English PH, TH & SH, the Welsh DD, CH & TH, the German TSCH & Ö, and the French Ë, Ü, é, è, à & ù.

    When it comes to praising certain languages for the fidelity of their transcriptions and denigrating others it is traditional to slag off English with the handle ‘non-phonetic’ and laud others (Italian is often quoted, and has been so here) as ‘phonetic’. The truth is not so simple. Surely, English has its problems ; and one of its joys is trying to divine exactly where the tonic stress falls and such matters as the pronunciation of EA of -OUGH : still, it does obey the ‘Rules’ a lot of the time (it is after all a Germanic tongue, of sorts), and the difficulties are perhaps exaggerated. The problem, as usual, is that the pronunciation has shifted over the centuries, but not the spelling.

    This has happened in all languages, of course : it is inevitable. And yet other languages are more rigorous, perhaps, and once the orthographic system is understood there are fewer problems. Again, many countries reform the spellings in their languages from time to time so that the written form is closer to the (modern) spoken sounds : older folk and foreigners (like me) form the Résistance – wild horses will not make me write the French word ‘événement’ as ‘évènement’, though this may approximate better the modern-day pronunciation of that word. Even so, there are limits, and the Dutch have yet to propose writing “tragisch” (Eng. ‘tragic’) as “tragis”, which would be closer to its sound – tradition is against such a change, though it may yet come. And the Dutch themselves have balked at writing “kado” in the place of the adopted French word “cadeau”. Quite right, too, I say !

    Now, if you want a European language written phonetically, of the ones I know of Spanish is a good bet, showing without ambiguity (as it does, I am assured) its five vowel sounds, its double consonants and its pattern of tonic stress (strict rules with a diacritic accent wherever the rule is broken), though even here the letters G & C have two different (but unambiguous) sounds, and the digraph GU is used in such words as ‘guerra’, with a soft G sound, and CH as in English. It also uses an unpronounced H from time to time.

    Italian is a little less phonetic, since it does not mark stress infallibly, has the digraphs CI, GI, CH & GH, and, more seriously, does not distinguish its two forms of E and O (it has seven vowels, not five, as often advanced).

    German, French, Dutch and Welsh all use digraphs and diphthongs to get around the problems of the (limited) Latin alphabet, though once you know the rules you are OK, by and large. (Incidentally, the German language holds the world record, I am told, for the greatest number of letters needed to represent just one sound, -TSCH – English -CH – and rather ironically this falls in the word “Deutschland”).

    I give up …

    So whilst you might call these languages ‘consistently unphonetic’ I suppose you’d have to call English ‘inconsistently (un)phonetic’ …

    Now, if you really want an accurate phonetic representation of a European language using the Latin alphabet then I am told that Finnish is a very safe bet. Why so ? Firstly, its written form was invented fairly late, in the 16th century, by the (probably) bilingual Finnish bishop, Agricola, and so is precise ;

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mikael_Agricola

    … secondly, it later lost its ‘non-latin’ consonants (“th” both as in ‘thin’ and as in ‘this’) and with this the need for digraphs ; and, thirdly, vowels are both clear and thin on the ground, and only two diacritic forms, Ä & Ö, are needed, as well as the Y, as in Welsh (a vowel, in both languages, similar to French U and German Ü, though in Welsh it does strange things in stressed positions).

    Ian

    Reply
  25. Eric -  February 17, 2011 - 1:21 pm

    Interesting that in French, ‘W’ is pronounced “du-bli-vay” while ‘V’ is pronounced “vay”. Translation: ‘W’ in French is “Double V”.

    Reply
  26. Dean -  February 17, 2011 - 1:11 pm

    I still don’t get it.

    Reply
  27. alohahaha -  February 17, 2011 - 11:30 am

    Some people do write the letter w with the bottom 2 points rounded like two “u” ‘s, I must point out, especially in cursive. Why bother picking on “w”? It’s not the letter’s fault that it is an oddity, it’s the people who came up with it. If you have any complaints, why don’t you try coming up with a form of writing? It’s hard stuff!

    Reply
  28. Cynan Rees -  February 17, 2011 - 8:35 am

    Enjoyed the last line of the article too. I can go one better, though. When I was 16 or 17 in Hong Kong, in the family car one day, my brother felt the need to inform us when the first world war took place (as if we all didn’t know).

    Without planning, I retorted, “We’re quite well aware when World War One was.”

    Reply
  29. Greg -  February 10, 2011 - 9:42 am

    What about President Bush? They call him “dubya.” How’s that fit in the double “u” sitchee”w”aysheon?

    Reply
  30. john rhea -  February 9, 2011 - 1:42 am

    The letter W and its sound are not even present in my first and last name. However, one can imagine this sound, when saying my name slowly, when one has smoked some weed. weed not uueed.
    Also, why must people repeat what has already been written? And what’s up with the “it’s” vs. “Its’? To Zippi; your comment about the Article, is longer than the article. Put the Bottle down!!

    Reply
  31. Wendy White Wolf -  February 8, 2011 - 9:58 pm

    “It is also the only letter with a name that does not indicate its phonetic use.”
    ~ read through most of the comments actually- did anyone else note that “y” does not indicate its phonetic use either? and wouldn’t it make more sense if “y” made the “wa” sound instead of “w”? Why does “y” say “ee”, like in my first name? or “ai” in “thyme”? but what would be the letter to indicate the “yu” sound that “y” has only when it is at the beginning of a word, as in “yak”. Yakkety iakkety, Why ask Y?…….
    (i think i’ve been reading too much Dr. Seuss lately…=)

    Reply
  32. Zippi -  February 5, 2011 - 3:01 pm

    Cynical Canadian Cookie, this is, most likely, because people don’t read what has been written and therefore learn nothing; they merely comment. Furthermore, they probably have no interest in linguistics and therefore, find the article uninteresting, hence calling it “stupid.” Although I found the article somewhat lacking, I have been forced, as a result, to carry out further investigation, which can only be a good thing.

    Reply
  33. Cynical Canadian Cookie -  February 5, 2011 - 8:23 am

    • I find it amusing that people who have no idea about Linguistics take the time to comment about how “stupid” this article is.

    • one of the key concepts in Ling is that language is DEscriptive not PREscriptive; different in different regions even when speaking the same language

    • it’s annoying when people post something that’s been said ten times already!

    Reply
  34. :) -  February 4, 2011 - 9:12 pm

    Really? Why so much controversy over a letter? I know that this site is all about words but still. I mean, who cares about a w. Get on with it for pete’s sake. Anyone agree?

    Reply
  35. Spence -  February 4, 2011 - 8:18 pm

    Happy Wea of da Wabbit!

    Wuv,
    Elmer Fudd

    Reply
  36. Zippi -  February 4, 2011 - 7:52 pm

    tariquendi, the Anglos, as you call them, WERE Germanic, although Germany didn’t exist, at the time. The word order has its routes in the Celtic languages. English has always resisted outright change from the lands invaders; the latest historical example would be that of the Normans attempt to impose their version of French upon the people. The English didn’t want it so, it became the preserve of the Court. English is very good, however, at assimilating; meat, for example, “beef” has a French origin, yet the animal, whence it came, “cow,” has Anglo-Celtic Origin.
    I am withdrawing my comment about Italian being the most phonetic written language. Twi, from Ghana is, I believe, a phonetic written language. The alphabet has 23 characters, two of which are “E”s (e and ɛ) and two are “O”|s (o and ɔ). “ŋ” is now obsolete, however, it is still used, verbally.
    It is interesting how in Modern German, “V” sounds like English “F” whereas in Welsh, “F” sounds like English “V.”
    We must remember that “W” is a ligature of two “V”s but it was not until the Middle Ages that “V” became “V” as we know it. In the same period, “U” was also being used like “V”. Note that “U” “V” and “W” appear together, in the English alphabet. We find it strange that “W” is called “double U,” despite looking like double “V” but “U” and “V” were once one and the same; what they were called, I don’t know. The French, Spanish and Italians, it seems call “W” “double V”.
    There are examples of “poure” and “povre” (both poor), “dewill” (devil) and these, all in the same work; adventures, seruyse (service), vndertake, vnto, Quene, perceyue (perceive), haue, leue (leave), euer. In another work, are heven and heuen. If both “U” and “V” were being used, simultaneously, to represent both “U” and “V” sounds that we know, today, who is to say which was “iuu” and which was “vii”? If “V” was being used as the modern “U” it is quite conceivable that the ligature “W” should be called double U.

    Reply
  37. frenzie -  February 4, 2011 - 5:24 pm

    Actually, because of the way I write, ‘w’ looks like two u’s connected.
    :\

    Reply
  38. me8 -  February 4, 2011 - 4:36 pm

    D. James: “I am a charter member of the English Grammar and Spelling Police…” I’m still in high school and probably one of the few left of my generation who would qualify for “The English Grammar and Spelling Police!”

    Reply
  39. me8 -  February 4, 2011 - 4:08 pm

    Mrs Dean Wormer:
    “I’m going to form a band called the Bilabial Fricatives. Who is with me?!”
    I’m in!

    Reply
  40. me8 -  February 4, 2011 - 4:05 pm

    “although some people use their tounge as well” Unless you just mistyped it, it’s spelled “tongue,” not “tounge.”

    Reply
  41. My name is name backwards and forwards -  February 4, 2011 - 2:40 pm

    MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA i never realy thought about that that way

    Reply
  42. boredouttamymind -  February 4, 2011 - 2:27 pm

    yaaaaaawn .. that waaaas BORINGGGG :/

    Reply
  43. Thinking -  February 4, 2011 - 7:51 am

    I think “double u” needs a new name. It’s not fair all the letters get a unique ID but “double u” is a derivative. What if your older brother was named Bob and you were then officially named “Bob’s Brother”. Think of what it would do to your self esteem. You’d probably turn to food for solace. Maybe this is why “double u” is the widest letter.

    Reply
  44. Peggy -  February 4, 2011 - 7:38 am

    Back when I went to elenemtary school and we were taught to write in cursive the w was written as uu.

    Reply
  45. Ash -  February 4, 2011 - 7:26 am

    Actually, when writing the letter ‘W’, it supposed to look like two U’s joint together, it wasn’t supposed to be pointed at the bottom, try writing it, the only thing is when you type it, it resembles two V’s. When writing it (handwriting), you’d notice that a lot of people make it look like two U’s joined together, yet for some it looks like two V’s.

    Reply
  46. lol -  February 4, 2011 - 7:23 am

    im in 21 grad n i dunt undastnd ny of dis lol

    Reply
  47. Name -  February 4, 2011 - 7:15 am

    I got half of it. Very interesting!
    VAT??!?

    Reply
  48. faust666 -  February 4, 2011 - 6:37 am

    Not a very good article. Somewhat tenuous and obfuscatory; and as many have already pointed out, technically erroneous too.

    Reply
  49. Clark -  February 4, 2011 - 6:18 am

    BLOGCHI@mayopia.com Seriously? Stupid and off subject.
    Sammie Excellent
    The one about usage in Wales and Welsh like it’s two different languages was funny, too.

    I wan’t to know where the pirates got the double “R”

    Reply
  50. inviting a handlename -  February 4, 2011 - 6:06 am

    slow down

    Reply
  51. a.b -  February 4, 2011 - 6:04 am

    who ever dnt get is stupid

    Reply
  52. Glory!@ -  February 4, 2011 - 6:00 am

    BLOGCH! That was amazing. Quite perceptive. THE “W” and all…very very good!

    The conservative xians against the democratic islamists…both wierd bed fellows, indeed. Me thinks that the both of them require an overhaul. And those of us who see it, require self reliance.

    HS!
    Glory!

    Reply
  53. Junfan Mantovani -  February 4, 2011 - 4:24 am

    I am really, really confused. My tiny mind cant handle all of this information so early in the day. Great article. I am also Italian.

    Reply
  54. twibbles -  February 4, 2011 - 3:50 am

    Funny. I live in Sweden and am always trying to explain the difference between W and V to people. I tell them, “Do you know what W is called in English? That’s right, ‘double U’. That’s because it’s pronounced like a U. Uuen, uuere, uuith, uueather.” Doesn’t help, though. They still talk about the vest side of the willage.

    Reply
  55. Wilma Wilson -  February 4, 2011 - 2:22 am

    I am feeling very special because my name is Wilma Wilson and some people ask is that spelled “double uu” and some will ask is that spelled “dub-ya” and I just agree with both. It’s true about the upside down “double uu” being an “M”, My neice gave me the name “Mimi” when she was learning to talk she could not pronounce “Wilma”, so I have had the name “Mimi” for the past 53 years and that’s what most people call me and I have had the name “Wilma” for 70 years come March.
    After reading all the silly coments about the “W” I can’t remember how to spell my name.

    Reply
  56. tariquendi -  February 4, 2011 - 1:51 am

    ok someone said they thought English was easy to learn. please tell me you’re joking, right? even though English is becoming the “standard” language all over the world, it is by far the most difficult. i’m not gonna say that I’m an expert or have a degree in linguistics, but i found in a research paper of the history of the english language that the Anglos actually created the language to be a secret military code to confuse the French and Germanic armies. It then continued to develop because the King liked his new language and i guess it’s all history now but it was built as a code. thus why it is so confusing and has backwards word order and everything.

    Reply
  57. Pauline -  February 3, 2011 - 11:00 pm

    Sorry, I’ve got quite a few typos…please don’t impale me! It’s late but I hope the reader gets my drift….sorry. Gosh, if we had everyone in one room, would we be able to speak one at a time? Bring on the wine (or beer)…HA HA HA

    Reply
  58. Pauline -  February 3, 2011 - 10:54 pm

    Bravo:

    This is my favorite subject…thanks for the interesting item on Prof. Mombat’s “upside-down M” for expressing “W” and also Nala’s humorous observance of the the pronounciation of V as Fow and W and “Veh”….gee, it really helped me learn German so easily when I moved there for family business without ANY backgound on the landguage (I was the Spanish, French, and Italian lover…now I’m learning Hungarian…ha h…totally different ballgame.) And I was mostly raised in Hawaii – go figure!
    Anyway, all I really wanted to mention (but after reading everyone’s take – lovely!), that earlier on the longest blog I’ve ever read, there was mention of “www” in English, for example, being way to tedious. I must say, though, the in German, it would be simply, “veh, veh veh punkt (dot) Nein! (The ‘Nein’ is a little correction to the person who wrote “Nien, Nien, Nien” incorrectly. But don’t blame ya, languages, where would we be without them…still grunting and growling…= )

    Reply
  59. Pustekuchen -  February 3, 2011 - 10:46 pm

    Jerry: /w/ is a labio-velar approximant. Fricatives achieve a certain amount of noise from vibrations at the point of constriction as it’s a tighter aperture.

    And aspirated bilabial is more like a popped /p/ “puh”

    Reply
  60. Madhusudan Menon -  February 3, 2011 - 10:41 pm

    I wonder how much time, if not a whole of life-time itself, it would take to master the art of correct pronunciation. If learning of correct pronunciation is a tool with which to learn something else using the correct pronunciation per se, how much time it would take to learn something else using this tool? Do you think it is worth the time and effort vis-a-vis the gains attained there-from? It is not a comment to cheapen the efforts of those real connoisseurs but to draw attention to spending time to an activity disregarding more important lessons to be learnt in life.

    Reply
  61. Mr. Raymond Kenneth Petry -  February 3, 2011 - 10:03 pm

    (‘Ackk’- was missing, so I re-appended it.)

    Reply
  62. Mr. Raymond Kenneth Petry -  February 3, 2011 - 10:02 pm

    Also,

    5. The W was more nasal in the early ‘language isolate’, e.g. WSR (Grk. Osiris), was pronounced more ‘Oongsher’ than ‘Osir’.

    (The early ‘language isolate’ had more inflection than could be written, They’d had no need to write, on Ra’s Boat of Millions of years, so only the very ‘bones’ of the alphabet were written, mostly the consonants, plus a few liquids, as well as the accent-directive-semi-vowel, aleph, pronounced ‘ah’ or ‘eh’.

    (Note, the early ‘language isolate’ acquired the local words for employment, artisans, farmers priests, shepherds, etc., for simpler teaching of mankind.)

    6. The Greek pi-variant, ϖ, which looks like an o-mega-(ω)-bar, came from the early P pronounced more voweled-to-aspirated ‘ops/oph’, e.g. Egyptian SPDT became Sothis in the Greek, Akkadian Purattu became Ophratthu Euphrates.

    Reply
  63. Mr. Raymond Kenneth Petry -  February 3, 2011 - 9:49 pm

    P.S. #2. Also, should mention–

    6. The Greek pi ‘variant’ ϖ, which it looks-like-an-o-mega-ω-bar, came from the Egyptian P which was pronounced like ‘ops/oph’ (you see the O-part of the P)– e.g. SPDT became Sothis in the Greek because of the O-part of the P, Purattu (Akk.) became Ophratthu Euphrates because of the Oph-part of the P, plus the Th-part of the T….

    Reply
  64. Mr. Raymond Kenneth Petry -  February 3, 2011 - 9:38 pm

    P.S. Also left out–

    5. The nasalization of the W in the earliest Sumero-Egyptian god-language: WSR (Grk. Osiris), was pronounced closer to ‘Oongsher’ than ‘Osir’…. (We know this by the similarity in the Sumerian identification of Anshar, pronounced more Angshar, being the same person-or-title at times in the first millennium.)

    The earliest god-language ‘probably’ had more inflection than could be written (They had no need to write on Ra’s Boat of Millions of years) and so only the very ‘bones’ of the alphabet were written, mostly the consonants, and a few liquids, as well as the accent-directive-semi-vowel, ah or eh. affected by the rest of the word.

    Reply
  65. Bookreader321 -  February 3, 2011 - 9:10 pm

    and @poop. First of all, no one appreciates your name or your hatred. Second, if no one cares why are you here? This really is quite an interesting article. And third, can you not see how many people think this article is fascinating? Great observation skills there.

    Reply
  66. Bookreader321 -  February 3, 2011 - 9:07 pm

    @jAd, you are right. I wonder why the French have caught on and we have not?

    Reply
  67. Zippi -  February 3, 2011 - 8:48 pm

    Deb, “Y” is pronounced “wai” not “wii,” which would be written “we” in English. Furthermore, “H” is not aspirated and spelt “aitch”. Some English people, however, do aspirate “H” but I have no idea why. I say English, because I have yet to hear a Scottish, Irish or Welsh person aspirate “H.” I think that Italian is the most phonetic written language. Writing phonetically is like writing for harp. When writing for harp, every string must be accounted for. When writing phonetically, every character should be voiced. In Italian, as far as I am aware, the vowels remain constant, unlike in English, French and German and the consonants rarely change their function, even when compounded; notable exceptions are “gli” and “gn.”
    Charles, the syntax rules might be loose but “there’s often periods” is still incorrect.
    “V” and “U” were different ways of representing the same sound. At one time, they appear to have been interchangeable; the word “have” was written “haue.” I would have liked the article to have explored this.

    Reply
  68. wyattstorch42 -  February 3, 2011 - 6:50 pm

    In Spanish, calling it “doble u” or “doble ve” is interchangeable. Maybe Englishmen are just stubborn?

    Reply
  69. stan -  February 3, 2011 - 6:44 pm

    What do U.F.O stand 4 is – U F##K OF#. – un – vy – NZ2- IH – 6eg9 – 7rL – 3EWM – B008oo74M-3y17

    Reply
  70. JAN -  February 3, 2011 - 6:39 pm

    whats even better, is that the Spanish name for the letter ‘w’ is “uve doble”, which translated literally means double V……

    Reply
  71. V -  February 3, 2011 - 6:13 pm

    vat?????

    Reply
  72. lalalalala elmo's world -  February 3, 2011 - 6:07 pm

    WWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVV

    Reply
  73. grizzy -  February 3, 2011 - 6:03 pm

    @ dictionary.com
    maybe because in some contrys the ” v” is pronuced ” w”
    or the other way around i fro get sorry o_O

    Reply
  74. NONE UR BIZ! -  February 3, 2011 - 5:54 pm

    ………………..HAPPY B-day RANDOM PEEPS!!!!!!!!!!!!!………………………………

    Reply
  75. NONE UR BIZ! -  February 3, 2011 - 5:52 pm

    ummmmmmmmmmmmmmm……………………………………………CHICKEN WING…………………….oh…oh …….. how do you get a tissue to dance……..?………………………………..OK U PUT a little BOGIE in it!!!!!!!!…………HAHHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHH…………………phew………..that was………hahahah…………………………so…………..HALARIOUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    ok BYE RANDOM PEOPLE!!!!!!! :) :P :o 0.o >3<

    Reply
  76. Jerry -  February 3, 2011 - 5:48 pm

    Pigtown*design: two Welsh words with “w” as their vowel seem to have made it into large English dictionaries: cwm and crwth.

    Kysore: wouldn’t the initial “wh” qualify as a “bilabial fricative”? Or am I confusing that with an aspirated bilabial?

    I suggest the writing of “double-u” as two v’s may have arisen just as the writing of the “u” sound as a “v” did: because of the difficulty, in writing ancient inscriptions, of carving a smooth curve in stone.

    Reply
  77. Audun -  February 3, 2011 - 5:35 pm

    In answer to drew who wrote “Voiced *bilabial*? Feel free to correct my limited knowledge of phonetics, but wouldn’t the /v/ sound be a voiced labio-dental fricative? A voiced bilabial fricative would be /m/, wouldn’t it?”

    /m/ isn’t a fricative, which is made by forcing the breath through a narrow passage. Bilabial doesn’t have to mean that the lips are pressed shut, but that both lips are used in making the sound, so a bilabial fricative means pressing the lips so close together that forcing your breath through them make a distinctive sound, like /w/. It’s easy to make a bilabial sound that sounds somewhere in between labio-dental /v/ and /w/ if you change the shape of the lips. Try it. The article says that through the years the language shifted, so maybe at some point, the latin v did sound like that bilabial sound.

    Reply
  78. Quintus -  February 3, 2011 - 5:31 pm

    Drew is absolutely right. English /v/ sound is a voiced labio-dental fricative: the opposite of /f/, an unvoiced labio-dental fricative.
    A voiced bilabial fricative isn’t in many western languages, but it’s represented by (greek minuscule beta) in the IPA.
    /m/ (and ) is a bilabial nasal.

    Reply
  79. werdna -  February 3, 2011 - 5:21 pm

    epic

    Reply
  80. Double V -  February 3, 2011 - 5:17 pm

    I saw some write “w” like this uu. And some people would call it double v. And I got realy confused. But this cleared things up. :D

    Reply
  81. poop -  February 3, 2011 - 4:39 pm

    no one cares about this article

    Reply
  82. M. Blame -  February 3, 2011 - 4:12 pm

    For those wondering if /p/ is a bilabial fricative, my understanding is that it is in fact a bilabial plosive. I believe a bilabial fricative would be something like blowing a two-lipped raspberry.

    “Raspberry,” in this sense, is from Cockney rhyming slang. Irrelevant aside, but aren’t those the best ones?

    Reply
  83. Barbara Poston -  February 3, 2011 - 3:57 pm

    p.s. I apologize for leaving off the final ” ] ” after my “fa, la, la, la, la.
    bp

    Reply
  84. Barbara Poston -  February 3, 2011 - 3:55 pm

    Like another person said, I came to look something up, got caught in all the fun. . . .
    Note that in the German pronunciation of the alphabet, “V” is pronounced “fow,” [rhyming with how/now/cow/sow]; and “W” is pronounced
    “vay” [rhyming with say, lay, nay, day, etc. Also “H” is pronounced “hah”
    [rhyming with “fa, la, la, la, la.”
    Note, also, that the “H” is pronounced by Cockney speaking British as “haitch” and does indicate its use. It is all quite confusing, but fascinating, isn’t it!
    Lots of clever remarks!

    Reply
  85. Peter -  February 3, 2011 - 3:26 pm

    I’m stupid. What was the article about?

    Reply
  86. Don -  February 3, 2011 - 3:11 pm

    I suppose that it would appear as two v’s when typed in a computer. W. However when wrote on paper, before computers were invented like most people did, and even today, how ofter does someone make their W look as it does on the computer. Try it, write the letter and you will see it looks like two u’s togeter, connected on the right of the first, and the left of the second, therfore giving it the name of the letter that is recieved, so the real question would be why do computers make our W look like two v’s. Its the font creators fault that this thread was even brought about. lol.

    Reply
  87. dude -  February 3, 2011 - 2:57 pm

    technically a lower case “w” is made up of two U’s

    Reply
  88. Cyberquill -  February 3, 2011 - 2:47 pm

    In a way, it’s a good thing that most Americans have never heard of Winnetou, because they wouldn’t know how to pronounce the “W.”

    Reply
  89. D -  February 3, 2011 - 2:11 pm

    The complications of “w” are doublefold because of it’s name, ‘double u’ and its shape, ‘double v’. What’s going on here?

    “it’s” should be “its”

    Reply
  90. Jake -  February 3, 2011 - 2:11 pm

    This is confusing, someone email me why, i dont know.

    Reply
  91. Jake -  February 3, 2011 - 1:43 pm

    In cursive, there is two “u”s in W.

    Reply
  92. Kailin -  February 3, 2011 - 1:40 pm

    Such coincidences! This is kind of weird. My friends and I were talking about the alphabet at school today (don’t ask. It’s a long story) and we were making fun of whoever named the letter “w” and why he/she named it “double-u.”

    Great article, by the way. Very interesting!

    Reply
  93. Wrasfish -  February 3, 2011 - 1:29 pm

    Well, Kathy, up in the northern states, it’s definitely “double-you”–Dub-ya is a former president with big ears.

    Reply
  94. John -  February 3, 2011 - 1:24 pm

    HAAAAAAAAAAA

    Reply
  95. Homegirl -  February 3, 2011 - 1:02 pm

    Will wo weave wit walone?

    Reply
  96. A random kid -  February 3, 2011 - 12:53 pm

    I have always wondered why /w/ was pronounced double u and not pronounced double v, but this has really cleared things up for me, so thanks.

    Reply
  97. SQEEF -  February 3, 2011 - 12:45 pm

    Wack article.

    Reply
  98. Nala -  February 3, 2011 - 12:38 pm

    As you said, in German “W” is pronounced as a “Vee” (they say “vay”), but to make it even more interesting, their “V” is pronounced as an “eFF” (or “fow”)! So, the VW Beetle is NOT made by “Vee-Double-U” as we say, but by “Fow-Vay” or “Folks-Vah’-gen”. Do vee have zat straight now?

    Reply
  99. DER -  February 3, 2011 - 12:32 pm

    My son when he first learned to say the alphabet, said “double me” for “w”, makes sense to me :-)

    Reply
  100. Ron -  February 3, 2011 - 12:27 pm

    One thing this article does NOT explain is why the w is written as two v’s. It says that it used to be written as two u’s, which explains the name, but the article then glosses over the titular question of how the double u’s became double v’s.

    Reply
  101. ross -  February 3, 2011 - 12:22 pm

    ii?VV Many latin names ii

    Reply
  102. james -  February 3, 2011 - 12:02 pm

    dumbest article I’ve ever read

    Reply
  103. Ooga Booga -  February 3, 2011 - 12:00 pm

    I will never be a lexicographer and a metallographer I will stay.

    Chemistry is so much easier than the English language!

    Reply
  104. Coriander -  February 3, 2011 - 11:59 am

    I thought bilabial is having or using two lips. It is when you need both lips to make the letter sound like /p/ and /b/. I have no idea what fricatives are.

    Reply
  105. sandy -  February 3, 2011 - 11:52 am

    Correction: our is not a phonetic alphabet; therefore, /w/ is certainly not the only letter, whose name fails to represent its phoneme. Consider pronunciation of “B’, “C”, D, on and on and on. These do not say the tiny /b/, /ku/ etc. phonemes that they represent. And yes, /v/ is a labio-dental fricative. Good article though

    Reply
  106. Randy -  February 3, 2011 - 11:50 am

    Lets make it simple, pronounce “W” as two “Us”. The first is said as “ou” as in you. The second is said “uh” as in duh. Now put them together and you have “ou-uh”. Now say it quickly and you have the “W” sound. Hope this will clear up ou-uhhy ou-uhee have a double “U”. Duh.

    Reply
  107. sidetrack -  February 3, 2011 - 11:48 am

    It’s a good article.I think it might also kind of explain a bit why in spanish the ltter “w” is named “double v”.

    Reply
  108. JacuzziSplot -  February 3, 2011 - 11:47 am

    It’s actually called “double v” in French.

    Reply
  109. Sad -  February 3, 2011 - 11:18 am

    “because of it’s name” is “because of it is name” :(

    come on, hotword! i know you can do better.

    Reply
  110. Mohamed ali -  February 3, 2011 - 11:14 am

    this is gonna be on my facebook itz gd article

    Reply
  111. Jeff -  February 3, 2011 - 11:14 am

    Yes, pronouncing things in fewer syllables than reality is a trend that many people in “a certain large southern state” seem to have embraced whole-heartedly. This concept seems to be correlated to the ability to accept and promote blatantly false political slogan/jargon/talking head FN diatribe too.

    Ashley, “voiced” in Linguistics, is referring to the vibration of vocal chords, compare s (not voiced) to z (voiced) by putting your hand on your throat while you make the sounds for each letter. Feel it? Of course you do.

    And I’m truly surprised at the number of mistakes in this article. Is it written by interns or something? Come on!

    Reply
  112. neerajkaushik -  February 3, 2011 - 11:01 am

    It remains UU whatever shape the printing presses or typesets may to itgive.In handwrittenmanuscripts and even in cursive or ordinary writing style it remains joined uu.

    Reply
  113. mizz ortiz -  February 3, 2011 - 10:59 am

    i hate all yall comments except peach

    Reply
  114. Todd -  February 3, 2011 - 10:51 am

    This is interesting. What’s even more intresting is I’m a West Virginia Univerity Mountaineer fan. There call letters are …

    W V U

    Reply
  115. peach -  February 3, 2011 - 10:48 am

    all yall comments r borin.

    Reply
  116. Charles -  February 3, 2011 - 10:33 am

    English IS easy–primarily because, like most newer programming languages, the syntax “rules” are so loose that nearly any word order can be properly understood.

    HISTORY is hard!

    For starters, there’s often periods in which all ‘subversive’ information was destroyed. Then there’s the continuing process of keeping only the currently useful information–libraries get purged in many ways.

    Then there’s the ‘winner wrote the book,” which is usually pretty obvious, but without any voice from the other side, it’s hard to know just how exaggerated the record may be.

    For most history people were far more concerned with their individual basic needs than with preserving old junk.

    There have been periodic attempts to create new characters, though the most recent I remember was the combined !? Which is punctuation, and ought to be considered part of the alphabet, they signal modifications of timing and pitch.

    Recording on paper exactly what was said requires musical and choreographic–and some form of recording facial expressions since a huge amount of human communication is non-verbal.

    ‘What a lot of things you do use |Good morning| for!’ said Gandalf. ~ “TheHobbit”

    Reply
  117. animal crazy girl -  February 3, 2011 - 10:25 am

    i write it like a doble u but its my way of making letters.

    Reply
  118. mona -  February 3, 2011 - 10:21 am

    im from iran, i’ve just read the article. that was nice

    Reply
  119. D. James -  February 3, 2011 - 10:21 am

    Oops. Have to correct my correction. I meant to say, “. . . so a word contained in one of the first sentences . . .”

    Reply
  120. D. James -  February 3, 2011 - 10:18 am

    I am a charter member of the English Grammar and Spelling Police, so one word contained in of the first sentences of the essay leaped out at me: “The complications of ‘w’ are doublefold because of it’s name . . .” It should be “its,” not “it’s.”

    Reply
  121. isabelle -  February 3, 2011 - 10:16 am

    awesome peeps

    Reply
  122. Tiffany -  February 3, 2011 - 9:53 am

    I also thought that in Old English the letter “u” was written as a V.

    Reply
  123. aa fasina thomas -  February 3, 2011 - 9:29 am

    Fascinating, educative…especially the stuff contributed by L.Koffi. Ve are thankful bcs of the good Vniwersities in our contly. Ve thank u wery wery much.

    Reply
  124. professor mombat -  February 3, 2011 - 9:10 am

    did you know that “W” is the only letter in the latin alphabet the is an upside down “M”?

    this comes from ancient times when “W” was actually called obm, meaning inverted “M”.

    Reply
  125. fabiola -  February 3, 2011 - 9:08 am

    I now speak with a british accent!!!!!

    Reply
  126. Ole TBoy -  February 3, 2011 - 9:07 am

    Kathy,

    Would that state be “Missippy”? “Probby” not. Not “larzh ’nuff.”

    Reply
  127. Sam -  February 3, 2011 - 9:06 am

    When I was visiting Russia in high school our translator had so much trouble saying the /w/ sound. We made up a tongue twister to help her practice:

    Willy Wonka whacked wildebeasts while walking westward.

    Reply
  128. AMY-LOU -  February 3, 2011 - 9:06 am

    This really didnt look like it would be a good read and i was right it kinda bored me. But to others who did like it more power to ya!

    Reply
  129. JimmiGee -  February 3, 2011 - 8:53 am

    OK Kathy. I hereby “dub-ya” queen of drawl!

    Reply
  130. Anon -  February 3, 2011 - 8:51 am

    Latin letters replaces runes in English long before the Middle English period. The entire corpus of Old English literature is written using the Latin alphabet, although sometimes runes were inserted as shorthand or wordplay, as in the poems signed by Cynewulf.

    Reply
  131. Breno Rodrigues -  February 3, 2011 - 8:34 am

    I liked this article. It shows an interesting part of English History. Congratulations !

    Reply
  132. Mrs Dean Wormer -  February 3, 2011 - 8:28 am

    I’m going to form a band called the Bilabial Fricatives. Who is with me?!

    Reply
  133. AmateurCommenter-924 -  February 3, 2011 - 8:27 am

    @Melanie, they’re just people. Who are supposed to have advanced intellect on words! C’mon Dictionary! Can’t you at least make proper blog posts! Anyway, nice article, though.

    Reply
  134. Matt -  February 3, 2011 - 8:21 am

    Voiced *bilabial*? Feel free to correct my limited knowledge of phonetics, but wouldn’t the /v/ sound be a voiced labio-dental fricative? A voiced bilabial fricative would be /m/, wouldn’t it?-

    M is nasal.

    Reply
  135. arben agolli -  February 3, 2011 - 8:08 am

    Your article ends on the last paragraph …Fast forward to 1300. With the French-speaking Normans ruling England for a couple hundred years, the English language rapidly evolves from Old English or Anglo-Saxon into Middle English. my question is:
    If French occupation modeled English language why you never talk about Roman occupation and its influence on your language. Are you sure (why and how if so) that what you consider French is not (to be more accurate) an Italian influence which you never mention when talking about etymologies of the wards.

    Reply
  136. Soren -  February 3, 2011 - 8:07 am

    @Melanie re H
    You are saying it wrong:) Say “haych” not “aych”. That’s the Austrailian way and it corrects this inconvenient gap in phonetic correspondence.

    Reply
  137. David -  February 3, 2011 - 8:02 am

    @ melanie – Do some of the Brits pronounce “h” with a hard breath like /haytch/ (sorry not taking the time to look up the codes for phon. symbols) ? I think I’ve heard that… could be wrong…

    Someone once said the silent “h” in many American English words (honor, hour, honest, heir, herb, etc.) is a hold over from a “lower class” accent, like Cockney, or the like where they drop a lot of h’s … Any one know?

    I believe the non-voiced bilabial fricative in English is know as a raspberry (although some people use their tounge as well!) :-)

    Voiced would be like when you blow on a baby’s tummy!

    As a vocal warm-up we called it “bubbling” in choir!

    Reply
  138. Ruth -  February 3, 2011 - 7:54 am

    If Drew is correct, what’s up with Dictionary.com’s definition of bilabial?

    Reply
  139. fabiola -  February 3, 2011 - 7:52 am

    have u guys ever heard of twitter

    Reply
  140. fabiola -  February 3, 2011 - 7:51 am

    i love this website so much!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@$##########$$$$$%^&*())

    Reply
  141. The Demon Ira -  February 3, 2011 - 7:40 am

    Well if you ask me all of you people should go back to school and learn this. I mean come on people this is america that some of us live in and we should learn it if you ask me.

    Reply
  142. georgieboy -  February 3, 2011 - 7:36 am

    “The complications of “w” are doublefold because of it’s name …”
    Shouldn’t the publishers of a dictionary know how to spell its?

    Reply
  143. Kathy -  February 3, 2011 - 7:11 am

    some of us in a certain large southern state pronounce “w” with only two syllables, as in “dub-ya” … just sayin’

    Reply
  144. emma smells -  February 3, 2011 - 7:11 am

    ‘w’ is a letter not a word, look at the title LOL

    Reply
  145. OsamaBinLaden -  February 3, 2011 - 6:55 am

    Ve are not Germans, Ve are English. Nien Nien Nien!!!!

    Reply
  146. JS -  February 3, 2011 - 6:54 am

    “Moreover, even /m/ is not a bilabial fricative. /m/ is a bilabial nasal. There is no bilabial fricative sound in English language, though you may find one in some phonetic languages in Asia.”

    Phonetic languages? What is a phonetic language? And you can find voiced bilabial fricatives in modern Spanish (and an older form of Greek, which is where the IPA symbol /β/ is derived).

    Reply
  147. kaaay -  February 3, 2011 - 6:54 am

    you all gone mad, i say.

    Reply
  148. jhomelle -  February 3, 2011 - 6:50 am

    nice comments in here,!lot of cool stuffs that make me feel more educated about these things..tnx a lot..

    Reply
  149. Brooklyn JOE -  February 3, 2011 - 6:23 am

    In English, /v/ is indeed a labiodental fricative. However in Spanish it is a bilabial fricative.

    Reply
  150. Sir Mike Tallon, PhD -  February 3, 2011 - 6:12 am

    I still don’t get how “uu” started getting written as “vv” pushed together? When and why did that happen?

    Reply
  151. tbstoller -  February 3, 2011 - 6:03 am

    Came to the site to look up the pronunciation of a word and got caught up in this. You are awesome!

    Reply
  152. Zupa -  February 3, 2011 - 5:54 am

    ‘because of it’s comments’
    now that’s some naughty apostrophe!

    Reply
  153. Ashley -  February 3, 2011 - 5:50 am

    Actually, I was under the impression that /m/ is not voiced because it’s pronounced with your mouth closed? (I took an introductory linguistics course a while ago, I don’t remember certainly what distinguishes voiced from non-voiced)

    Reply
  154. Mark II -  February 3, 2011 - 5:45 am

    Because…. in Latin (of which most of the English language is based), “U” looks like a “V”. You boneheads.

    Reply
  155. jAd -  February 3, 2011 - 5:22 am

    It is called “Double V” in French anyway, makes sense.

    Reply
  156. dlm -  February 3, 2011 - 5:05 am

    Many interesting comments here! Melanie – you are correct about /h/. Rocky-O – I appreciate your comment about the effect of keyboards on the visual representation of /w/. I, too, learned to write it as “uu”.
    And Will – Appreciated your comment about the syllables. Interesting to note how little we are disturbed by the inefficiency in that term “www”…

    Reply
  157. @ ;? -  February 3, 2011 - 4:44 am

    @ ;? same here

    Reply
  158. Drew -  February 3, 2011 - 4:30 am

    @kysore Right you are. Wasn’t sure. I just put my lips together, made a sound and /m/ came out.

    Reply
  159. scrooge -  February 3, 2011 - 4:16 am

    and I thought learning english was simple!?!?
    whats with all the bilabial fricatives what’s it mean anyways? ? HEADACHE!

    Reply
  160. James -  February 3, 2011 - 4:16 am

    If I were to have guessed, it would have been that explaination.

    Reply
  161. Curly -  February 3, 2011 - 3:50 am

    @Dictionary.com:

    “…because of it’s name…”

    Please fix this typo. Thank you.

    I very much enjoyed the article.

    Reply
  162. L Koffi -  February 3, 2011 - 3:40 am

    Will W: I don’t think it’s /dub-a-you/, it might be /dou-ble-you/, but, if I’m being phonetic about it I would write it as /duh-bull-u/; ;?: Funny u said your head hurt!; Ndigile: You can get dictionary.com; hahahahehehahuhuha: You sound confused, but so, so funny. Vniversity is the way “university” was spelled at institutions of higher education which existed before Medieval times so the u was typed in as a v. Maybe that’s how the double v (vv) look originated. Just saying!

    Reply
  163. cutiepup12 -  February 3, 2011 - 2:20 am

    awesome article!!!

    Reply
  164. my name is Bob -  February 3, 2011 - 1:22 am

    i like cheese

    Reply
  165. remi -  February 3, 2011 - 1:10 am

    @kysore… isn’t /p/ supposed to be a voiced bilabial fricative?

    Reply
  166. Deb Burton -  February 3, 2011 - 12:33 am

    ay, bee, cee, dee, ee, ef, ghee, haitch, ii, jay, kay, el, em, en, oo, pee. Qwu, ar, es, tee, (y)uu, vee, way, eks, yay and zee….
    Now I know my ABC – the new version which I teach to kids having trouble with reading! Thanks for all this excellent information, it is good to get the children realising English is only about 70% or so fonetik, and some of the reasons why! French seems even less phonetic, but apparently German is mostly OK…

    And why is ‘y’ called “wii” – beginning with the ‘w’ sound!!!

    Reply
  167. kysore -  February 2, 2011 - 11:36 pm

    Agree with Drew. /v/ is definitely not a bilabial fricative. It’s a labiodental fricative. Moreover, even /m/ is not a bilabial fricative. /m/ is a bilabial nasal. There is no bilabial fricative sound in English language, though you may find one in some phonetic languages in Asia.

    Reply
  168. Girl -  February 2, 2011 - 11:33 pm

    Hi guys!!!!! I just finished reading ya’ alls comments. Very cool!!!!

    Reply
  169. Cuong -  February 2, 2011 - 10:15 pm

    Hehe, the “w” alliteration at the end was so obvious.

    Reply
  170. Sammie -  February 2, 2011 - 10:05 pm

    i think double u should b pronunced as you you .

    Reply
  171. Sandeep -  February 2, 2011 - 9:48 pm

    Good Article

    Reply
  172. matt -  February 2, 2011 - 9:33 pm

    As drew commented, /v/ is indeed a voiced labiodental fricative. Additionally, /w/ is a voiced labio-velar approximant, not approximate. It is a semivowel, like /j/ (representing the sound of the first letter in “yes”).

    Reply
  173. hahahahehehahuhuha -  February 2, 2011 - 9:26 pm

    hahaha hehehea huhuha imma laughing at these random comments, no noe copy , meh fake name thingy LMAO

    Reply
  174. Ndigile -  February 2, 2011 - 9:21 pm

    i want a free dictionary which i can download and save in my computer.

    Reply
  175. xexexe -  February 2, 2011 - 8:19 pm

    Oh, good times, good times. My high school Latin teacher was soooooo strict on the pronunciation of the Latin “v”. For example, she’d always get mad if we pronounced “videō” (= “I see”) vee-de-oh instead of wee-de-oh.

    Reply
  176. ;? -  February 2, 2011 - 8:09 pm

    Reading this made my head hurt.

    Reply
  177. W | BLOGCHI@mayopia.com -  February 2, 2011 - 8:07 pm

    [...] DUBYA!? WOTYANUTS? The epic epoch of those first eight years did nothing but discombobulate into the brouhaha of the beginning of the Twenty-First Century where Conservative Manipulation did its best to Defenestrate Democracy by stealing an election — solidifying the tools of terrorism — to leave the Love behind closed doors and Wag the Dog for the future, bathed in oil and money, setting the stage for the bursting of the bottled up rage. — We may shout Bama Lama but defenestrate ole ‘W’ and a false perception of justice. — Now we know our ABCs… –>>Rupert L.T.Rhyme [...]

    Reply
  178. pigtown*design -  February 2, 2011 - 7:31 pm

    in wales, “w” is a vowel. i lived near a place called “pwll”. “y” is also a vowel in welsh.

    Reply
  179. Will W -  February 2, 2011 - 7:20 pm

    That its the only letter that when pronounced has 3 syllables /dub-a-you/

    and that its actually shorter to say “world wide web” instead of “www”

    Reply
  180. rocky-o -  February 2, 2011 - 6:47 pm

    good article…very informative and interesting…

    one thing…i do remember, back in the 60′s, when i went to elementary school, we were taught to write the ‘w’ as two u’s connected…

    it’s only been recently, with the plethora of keyboards, text messaging, etc., that the ‘w’ has replaced most possibilities of the hand-written ‘uu’ ever popping up again anytime soon…

    Reply
  181. Josh Park -  February 2, 2011 - 6:42 pm

    trtretetreretert

    Reply
  182. Josh Park -  February 2, 2011 - 6:42 pm

    VERY GOOD ARTICLE AND FUnnY,

    Reply
  183. Melanie -  February 2, 2011 - 5:45 pm

    “It is also the only letter with a name that does not indicate its phonetic use.”

    I thought that “h” didn’t indicate its phonetic use either. :\

    Reply
  184. Aditya Dogra -  February 2, 2011 - 5:34 pm

    Fantastic. Really a good article.

    Reply
  185. drew -  February 2, 2011 - 5:33 pm

    “Latin “v” became a voiced bilabial fricative — like the “v” in “vampire.” ”

    Voiced *bilabial*? Feel free to correct my limited knowledge of phonetics, but wouldn’t the /v/ sound be a voiced labio-dental fricative? A voiced bilabial fricative would be /m/, wouldn’t it?

    A

    Reply

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