Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Is "W" the new "Y"? (and more fun with words)

Awhile back, I wrote a blog entitled Fun Words to Say.

In talking with a friend today, we got on the subject of "favorite words", which morphed into little known words and their definitions.

My friend's favorite word is "arcane". It's an adjective that means "known or understood by very few; mysterious; secret; obscure; esoteric". Ironically, a good word to describe her.

I shared with her my favorite word, "ubiquitous", meaning "existing or being everywhere, especially at the same time". Which isn't a bad way of describing how I feel I should be most of the time.

And because I like uniformity in my life, I told her I was particularly fond of the word "facetious", which contains all the vowels in order. Actually, I said, "facetiously" would be better, of course, because of that "sometimes y" factor.

To which she replied, "And 'w', too."


Apparently so. "W" is indeed a vowel in two words borrowed from the Welsh: "cwm", which is a special type of valley, and "cwr", which is a type of train tracks made from single long rails rather than a bunch of short ones put together.

Some linguists even go so far as to consider "W" a dipthong vowel, when used in words such as down, wow, and caw, and many others. I'm not sure how I feel about that, but I do like the word dipthong, which literally means "two sounds" or "two tones", and refers to two adjacent vowel sounds occurring within the same syllable. In most dialects of English, the words eye, boy, and cow contain examples of diphthongs.

So I learned something new today, and I just thought I'd pass it on. I'll leave you with one more, though. Next time you go to your favorite coffee shop, make sure that you ask for a "zarf". See if they give you one.

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