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Archives: cwmFrom: Wordsmith (email@example.com)
Date: Thu Nov 3 00:03:03 EST 1994
cwm \'ku:m\ n [W, valley] : CIRQUE
I received a couple of messages where some expressed doubt whether cwm -- apparently a vowel-less word -- was a real word or I just made it up. As it turns out, cwm does have a vowel - "w". Here is how: Cwm happens to be Welsh word and as James Dignan of otago.ac.nz, Nick Jones of fml.co.uk and Stanton McCandlish of eff.org pointed out, in Welsh, a,e,i,o,u,w and y are all vowels.
Mark S. Hoffman of pictel.com had this interesting tale to relate: "When I was in 4th grade, we had a teacher, who was new to our school. She tried to warm up the class by asking us to recite the vowels. We all said in unison: `a,e,i,o,u and sometimes y and w.' She just slumped into her chair and didn't know what to do. We didn't know why `w' and I didn't discover `cwm' until it was published in Scientific American in the only sentence that is an anagram of the alphabet."
Jonathan March (compuserve.com) further elaborated: "In Welsh, `W' is a vowel, pronounced like the `oo' in `boot'. More interesting is the Welsh `LL' consonant, which has no equivalent in English. You pronounce it by putting the tip of your tongue behind your lower teeth, flattening the middle of your tongue against the roof of your mouth, with your jaw and lips only slightly parted, and blowing air voicelessly past your tongue. Examples: the names `Lloyd' and `Llewellyn' (note that `y' has a schwa sound)."
Dan Keller, a linguistics student at colorado.edu reminded us of another Irish word where w serves as a vowel - "crwth". This word, which means "crowd" was also mentioned by Bill little of att.com and Dennis Cordray of ucarb.com.
Howard Bussey of bellcore.com cwm disputed the definition: "Among mountaineers, I'm not sure cwm and cirque have exactly the same meaning, but it may be that the differences are as hard to describe as the reputed dozens of words for snow that eskimos use." Thanks tw all of yw whw took the time to send your comments.
On a rather unrelated note, here is a report on A.Word.A.Day sightings in print media. John K. of bailey.com has informed that AWAD was featured in an article on the Internet in the Penthouse 25th Anniversary issue. o-: Another alert Linguaphile Helen Wu of utoronto.ca noticed AWAD in the Toronto Star. Thank you both for letting us know.
From the leaf-strewn shores of Lake Erie...