Hot Debate on the Big W

Whilst working on my super secret manuscript this morning, I found myself in need of a synonym, so onto Thesaurus.com I hopped. Wham! Hot debate going on in the comments of the article titled, "If “w” is double u, why is it made of two v’s?"

Indeed!

I had just been talking about this not two days ago with my son! We agreed W should be called "double vee," and my son tasked me to contact the literary powers that be with our epiphany. Thank gosh I don't talk to Noah Webster anymore (because he's dead and my therapy's over), or I truly would have embarrassed myself. According to the enlightening and timely article, the sounds we attribute to U, V, and W all derived from classic Latin's V, which originally was pronounced "wa." Surprised? There's more!

The first mutation was the use of V as a voiced bilabial fricative! Fricative-A! Can you believe it? Do you even know what a fricative is? I didn't until I read this article. But those in the know argued in the comments against the voiced bilabial fricative label: V is a voiced labio-dental fricative. V is a labiodental fricative. There was even reference to --gasp!--bilabial nasal [fricatives] in connection with a different letter.

Anyway, as V became overloaded with responsibilities, what with representing ugly vampire want-to-bes, eighth century writers decided that the wa sound would be depicted by a U and a U--a double set of Us--and it looked like this: uu.

At this point, I felt the question posed in the title remained unanswered. ("If 'w' is double u, why is it made of two 'v’s?'") If anything, my curiosity had been further stoked, but the article ended abruptly, summing up too quickly, leaving me without hope of resolution.

My hands stretched toward my monitor like those of a sunburnt, dehydrated soul upon the appearance of an oasis that dissolves into mirage. Why, oh why, I lamented, if double-u is based on U, why why WHY is it pointy like a V?

Scrolling for answers, I stumbled upon a wiseman.

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

3 comments:

Kim Kasch said...

That is too fric...ing..atively complicated for my little pea brain

Stephanie Blake said...

That felt like an algebra problem. :)

Danette Haworth said...

Those silly linguists! (Fricatively speaking, of course.)