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3 Comments

  • Janet:
    The only survivor of “wer” in English seems to be werewolf, and “wyf” has transmogrified into a societal designation. Perhaps we all need Orwellian groupthink re-education to solve the problem. Seriously, the social changes in the last fifty years were too long in coming, but they did, or at least, started. Linguisic change takes a long time; the indecision of how to refer to a person of largely-African ancestry is a case in point. I tend to be an optimist; one of these days we’ll come up with a solution.

  • Marc:
    There is some doubt as to whether the ‘wer’ in ‘werewolf’ has the same root as the ‘wer’ in Old English ‘werman’ [cf OED entry for ‘werewolf’: “The first element has usually been identified with Old English wer man were n.1, but the form were- in place of wer- (compare however were- and wergild wergeld n.), and the variants in war- , var- , makes this somewhat doubtful.”].
    Your Orwellian reference is interesting as I was thinking about this as I was writing the blog post – ironic that many of the ‘Newspeak’ terms in ‘1984’, which satirized the manipulation and artificial modification of language for political ends, have found a place in our modern English parlance – Thought Police, and of course Big Brother – to name just a couple.

  • Janet: Thanks for the interesting blog post. I recently purchased a sailing yacht named Seawyf. After a little research I was sure “wyf” meant woman (or perhaps wife, mistress, etc.) and you have confirmed that. What I haven’t been able to determine is the pronunciation. Is it like “wife” or “wiff”?