Posted by: Jack Henry | February 11, 2016

Editor’s Corner: …And Sometimes W?

Kara’s post, Why Y?, reminded me of something my dad once told me. When he was in school, he learned the vowels: "A, E, I, O, U, and sometimes Y… and sometimes W."

In the pre-Internet days of my dad’s childhood, kids had to rely on the wisdom of their teachers. So, although my dad never saw W used as a vowel, he remembered this "fact" well into adulthood.

But my dad’s teacher was right. The letter W is used—infrequently—as a vowel. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary includes two such words (both borrowed from Welsh):

  • crwth: an ancient Celtic stringed instrument that is plucked or bowed
  • cwm: a deep steep-walled basin on a mountain usually forming the blunt end of a valley

In both cases, W is pronounced like the double O in loot.

The more permissive Oxford Dictionaries website also includes the Welsh word cwtch and the video gamer slang pwn (a deliberate misspelling of own):

  • cwtch: a cupboard or cubbyhole; a cuddle or hug
  • pwn: utterly defeat (an opponent or rival)

Nevertheless, the rule "A, E, I, O, U, and sometimes Y" is usually sufficient, unless you’re a Scrabble® player or a Welsh mountaineer.

Ben Ritter | Technical Editor | Symitar®
8985 Balboa Avenue | San Diego, CA 92123
619-682-3391 | or ext. 763391 |

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