2 W, U, and V Were The Same
Have you ever had way too much time on your hands (or simply been inquisitive) and wondered why “W” is called “double-U”? I have long been of the opinion that someone has been trying to mess with us. It is clearly a double “V” not a “U”. But as it turns out, it really doesn’t matter all that much as back in Roman times, “U” and “V” were exactly the same letter. Have you ever looked at the Latin language and considered it a little V-heavy? That could explain why.
Now it seems that things begin to get a little confusing, as they invariably do when it comes to the English language. It appears that “U” was the vowel version of the letter whilst “V” served as the consonant. The ridiculous thing is they were both pronounced the same way and probably sounded more like a “W” than anything else. So good luck making sense of that.
“W” is an enigma of a letter. Not only is it the only letter in the alphabet with a three-syllable name, but also, it doesn’t give anything away either. What I mean by that is that it is the only letter whose name does nothing to indicate its phonetic use.
As anyone who has ever tackled English as a second language will be all too aware, it is a tricky one at times. It has its own uniqueness which isn’t just limited to the pronunciation of “th”. In other Germanic languages “W” reads like a “V”. A double form of “u” was taken to represent the original Classical Latin “v”, written as ‘uu.’ So as to distinguish all three. The first time writing included a “UU” was in the 8th Century writers of Old High German. It is said to have become the norm with the Normans into England after the invasion of 1066.
It is all a bit too confusing to get your head around, isn’t it? At some point, to distinguish between sounds, “U” became doubled up. The point is that we have a whole big incestuous family from which all three of the aforementioned letters were spawned. Oh and another thing; “Y” came from that family too….but that’s a whole other story…