The wherewolf

Passed on by Joelle Stepian Bailard, this Cyanide and Happiness strip by Rob DenBleyker from 9/30/10:

A tour of the interrogative words of English.

Above: when, why, and who, plus the allusion to where in werewolf, which is what gets us into interrogative words in the first place; that just leaves how and which. And the phonological issue: who are how are /h/-initial, but the rest are /(h)w/-initial, with some speakers having a voiceless initial often phonemically transcribed as /hw/, but most current speakers having a voiced initial /w/, so that for them whales and Wales are homophonous, as are which and witch, where and wear, why and (the letter) Y, and when and (the boil or swelling) wen.

The were– of werewolf has /w/ for everybody, so that playing around with wherewolf would involve an imperfect pun (but that’s ok).

(In fact, for many people, the were– of werewolf has the vowel /i/ (as in weir, we’re, and weird), rather than /e/ as in where. For them, werewolf doesn’t suggest where at all — so for them the first panel of the cartoon doesn’t lead naturally to the later ones.)

Book note. The Vonnegut quotation in context:

I am a Tralfamadorian, seeing all time as you might see a stretch of the Rocky Mountains. All time is all time. It does not change. It does not lend itself to warnings or explanations. It simply is. Take it moment by moment, and you will find that we are all, as I’ve said before, bugs in amber. —Slaughterhouse-Five (1969)


2 Responses to “The wherewolf”

  1. Bob Richmond Says:

    You probably know Christian Morgenstern’s poem about the werewolf, which revolves around the fact that wer ‘who’ has four cases in the singular, but has no plural. I’ve seen several attempts to translate it into English, none very successful.

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