According to this chart describing an extension of 5W1H, the word how originates from the word whow which means “how much”.

I can’t find any references to such a word on the Internet. Is (or was) whow really a word? If not, where do you think the author of the chart got his information from?

Here is the chart (Japanese only): <http://homepage2.nifty.com/thinking-way-8W1H/8W1H(A4).pdf>


Is (or was) “whow” really a word?

Certainly. For this they invented dictionaries, one of the best of which for finding out whether something once was a word is the OED:

whou, whough(e, whouh, whow(e, variants of how, howe int.1

  • C. 1425 Quhow: see whew int.
  • 1542 Udall Erasm. Apoph. 314 ― Whough, saieth he, half my brothers bodye is more then the whole.
  • 1598 R. Bernard tr. Terence, Phormio ɪɪɪ. iii, ― How much money need you? speake. But thirtie poundes. Thirtie! Whow.
  • 1615 Brathwait Strappado 129 ― Whou Billie whou, what faire has thou bin at?
  • 1627 W. Hawkins Apollo Shroving ɪɪ. iv. 33 ― He answered me nothing but whough, pugh.
  • 1815 Scott Guy M. xlv, ― ‘Eh whow! Eh whow!’ ejaculated the honest farmer, as he looked round upon his friend’s miserable apartment.

So † whowb(e (in quots. as sb.; cf. howbub, hubbub).

  • 1600 W. Watson Decacordon ᴠɪɪ. x. (1602) 217 ― They hissed him out with whoubs & hoo-bubs.
  • 1600 W. Watson Decacordon ɪx. viii. 327 [see how, howe int.1].

It used to be a word. It probably isn’t any longer: modulo the cited farmer’s ejaculation, it hasn’t been much seen in four centuries. It used to mean the same thing as did the word How! when uttered as an interjection.

  • Whow! Correct me if I'm wrong, but it looks like you need an OED subscription to find that entry! I should probably get one. So "whow" definitely was a word. However, it appears that the definition of "how much" is incorrect. What do you think? Does the use of "whow" as an interjection as you described imply the meaning of how much? Is there another good source out there that can speak into that? – David Aug 2 '12 at 7:35
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    @David: UK residents can get a free subscription through a public library. – Barrie England Aug 2 '12 at 8:12
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    Very surprising. I would've bet it was some newfangled word, not something five centuries old – and I would have lost my money. Normally, I find "is this a real word" questions candidates for downvotes, but I'll certainly make an exception in this case, where it's been dropped from most dictionaries, and the answer isn't so easily found. – J.R. Aug 2 '12 at 9:38
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    Fascinating answer +1. Surely the exclamation "wow!" comes from "whow." – JAM Aug 2 '12 at 14:10
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    @David: Many college libraries subscribe to the OED, too, so you might be able to get access from a campus. As for the meaning of whow, it essentially means the same as how, near as I can tell (the OED redirects to the entry for how, then cites a few instances of it). 500-1000 yrs ago, there were quite a few different ways to spell how; perhaps the more interesting question is, quhow in the world did a modern pub – i.e., the one you linked to – end up with whow in that matrix? (Yes, quhow was one way to spell how in the 1500s; wish I could use it in Scrabble, but I'm dubious). – J.R. Aug 3 '12 at 9:28

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