17

When spelling, every letter in the Alphabet is pronounced by a single syllable, with the only exception of W being pronounced "double-U". (Fun fact, in German it's approximately pronounced like the "ve" in very, but in some strike of cosmic justice Y is pronounced "Yps-e-lon") Why is that? Is there any at least semi-officially accepted one-syllable alternative pronunciation of W?

I checked some related post, e.g. this one, but they are more concerned with the "Why?" instead of the "Why not different?"

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    So, um, what is the question we should answer? If it's the one in the title, then WWW is sometimes pronounced dub-dub-dub. If it's the "why is that", the answer can be found in this question, and the one linked from there, and on Wikipedia, too. And if it's "why not different", then I don't know how we can possibly answer that. Why don't we say "car" to mean "generosity"? – RegDwigнt Aug 7 '12 at 10:14
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    Thanks. "Some [...] shorten the name 'double u' into 'dub' only; for example, [the Universities of Washington, Wyoming and Western Australia] are all known colloquially as 'U Dub', and [VW] is sometimes pronounced 'V-Dub'. Many others, however, prefer to pronounce the w as dub-u, reducing it to two syllables. For example, www would be six syllables rather than nine, being pronounced dub-u dub-u dub-u. George W. Bush has been given the nickname 'Dubya', after the colloquial pronunciation of W in Texas." (Wikipedia) Not much we can add to that, I'm afraid. – RegDwigнt Aug 7 '12 at 10:24
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    @canpolat You heard people pronouncing English "www" as /vivivi/ where, exactly? – Mark Beadles Aug 7 '12 at 17:21
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    @MarkBeadles Not in a country where English is the official language. – some user Aug 7 '12 at 18:16
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    @MarkBeadles No offence meant, I'd pronounce Y "why" in German in exchange :-P – Tobias Kienzler Aug 7 '12 at 18:39
11

Sometimes if a university is located in the area which name starts with W, such university is called informally U-Dub.

This is the only case I can recall. But I don't believe that using "dub" instead of "double u" is common (or even exists) in any other context. Though I'm not a native speaker.

Here is quote from Wikipedia:

"Double U" is the only English letter name with more than one syllable, except for the occasionally used, though somewhat archaic, "œ" (its name is pronounced similar to "ethel"), and the archaic pronunciation of Z izzard.

Also, in Wikipedia, in addition to "U-Dub" example, it is mentioned that Volkswagen is also sometimes called "V-Dub".

As for the "but-why?!!" part of the question I guess nobody can answer you anything but: "for historical reasons".

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    Some folks say dubdubdub for www, thereby achieving a 3:1 compression of syllables. – tchrist Aug 7 '12 at 13:38
  • I've heard wahwahwah more frequently than dubdubdub, but neither very much – James Waldby - jwpat7 Aug 7 '12 at 17:07
  • This is not exactly "semi-official" nor even stanadard. It's highy informal. – Mark Beadles Aug 7 '12 at 17:18
9

The letter W is known in the NATO phonetic alphabet as "whiskey". I am not sure if that counts as "semi-officially accepted" though.

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    I was surprised, when scanning the answers, that this wasn't mentioned earlier! The NATO phonetic alphabet is effectively used in civilian situations as well, for instance in air traffic control. It is interesting to note that that phonetic alphabet was designed to mitigate miscommunication because of pronunciation and most letters are pronounced in a longer way than their standard English way: the U becomes the trisyllabic uniform, the N becomes November. But the double-U is the exception :) – oerkelens Sep 8 '14 at 7:15
  • Amateur radio operator here. I'm not sure that I'd call the NATO phonetic alphabet a form of abbreviation, although it functions as that with the letter W :) . We use it to increase clarity on poor voice connections or in situations where speakers speak with poor clarity or with an accent. Many letters sound similar to each other on the air. I note many American hams say Z as "zed" when not using phonetics, just because it's so much easier to distinguish from C. – Jim MacKenzie Jun 20 '17 at 17:17
5

In Primary School here in england, the kids often say the alpheabet like ah, buh, cuh, duh, eh,fu, guh etc. rather than Ay, Bee, Cee, Dee, Eee, Eff, Gee, following that primary school notation, DoubleU could be shortened to wuh.

  • How could 'wuh' be distinguished from 'vuh' in that case? – some user Aug 7 '12 at 16:52
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    @canpolat You do know that in English "w" and "v" aren't pronounced the same? "wuh" and "vuh" would be distinguished by their first letter. – Mark Beadles Aug 7 '12 at 17:20
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    @canpolat To fluent speakers v and w are entirely distinct, yes. – Mark Beadles Aug 7 '12 at 18:27
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    They are totally different sounds. In England, V is a Vee sound a W is a Wuh sound, so they are not interchangeable here – David Watts Aug 8 '12 at 9:10
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    @Gartram In Welsh (my father's first language) a W is pronounced like the "oo" in "look" (ʊ), as in the word "cwm" (mountain). It is pronounced exactly the same, although a little shorter, in combination with other vowels, e.g. "wedyn" is correctly pronounced "ooeddin", which is almost the same as the English would say "weddin", but a little longer. I don't think I've explained that very well, but it's very similar to your "uuas" explanation. – Phil M Jones Sep 8 '14 at 13:30
4

It does describe quite accurately what it looks like - a double v or a double u.

I can't find any historical guidance on why another word wasn't used, but it isn't unique: In Spanish it is 'doble-be', where 'v' is 'be'

  • That is a bit Latin-American: in Spain it is uve doble, though only used in loanwords. – Henry Aug 7 '12 at 11:03
  • Ahh - I did learn Spanish in the Falklands, so it probably was heavily biased towards Argentinian :-) – Rory Alsop Aug 7 '12 at 11:04
  • That shape-description may be true, but you wouldn't call Y "Flux Capacitor Component", would you? :-P But yes, I understand that it's historically like this, I was just wondering if the was no alternative - BE vs AE pronounce Z different as well – Tobias Kienzler Aug 8 '12 at 10:22

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