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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Crwth and Cwm

When I was in first grade, our teacher taught us a little song about vowels.  I can only remember the refrain, which went like this: "A, E, I, O, U... sometimes Y and W, too!"
About a month ago, the song popped into my head for some reason and I began singing it. 

My son Nick overheard me and said, "W?  W's not a vowel!"

"Yes, it is," I said.  "Sometimes."

Nick gave me his you're-crazy look and scoffed, "When?"

Well, he had me there, because I didn't actually know any words that used W as a vowel.  But I KNEW I was remembering the song correctly.  Not long afterwards, I noticed an article on the home page of Dictionary.com, talking about this very subject.  The article stated that there are two English words (both originally coming from the Welsh language) that use W as a vowel: crwth and cwm.*

A crwth [krooth] is an ancient stringed instrument, a kind of lyre.  A cwm [koom] is a valley.

The girl played her crwth down in the cwm,
enjoying the musical echo.

See, Nick, I was right! ;)  And now I have two great words to keep in mind next time I'm playing Scrabble and don't have any normal vowels!

Try using one or both of these words in a sentence of your own -- impress your friends with your knowledge of unusual words! :)  I'd love to see what you come up with, so please share if you wish.

*I've also learned that W is considered a vowel of sorts in words like sew, awe, and yawn... though, to me, it seems more like a silent W in those cases.

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