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A-E-I-O-U and sometimes Y and W
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2010/04/03
3:07pm
sseaman
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I always thought I made that up. One day, I think I said it to my kids then thought, “Why do I say that? I just made that up and it doesn’t even make sense.” I guess I didn’t. Yeah! The caller was from the Los Angeles area. I was in San Bernardino County — also in So.Cal. I wonder if there was something in the California Teaching Credential at that time. I haven’t heard it since then — at least until the phone call today. Whew!

2010/04/03
11:16pm
Jackie
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I learned that phrase in elementary school in the early 70s. There was a song in the 80s by the title, “AEIOU Sometimes Y” by Ebn Ozn.

2010/04/05
8:44am
johng423
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Here’s a puzzle from Will Shortz that I heard on an NPR program: There is a location whose name includes all the vowels – A, E, I, O, U, and even Y and W – within twelve letters. (Hint: There are three words.) What is that location? [I’ll post the answer in a few days.]

2010/04/05
9:36am
Glenn
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Utica, New York?

Of course, “Have it your way” contains them all (a and y, twice), in 13 letters, without proper nouns. “Have it our way,” the service philosophy of some corporations and governments, fits them in 12 letters, but sounds a bit off putting and contrived.

2010/04/22
9:55pm
Bill 5
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Growing up as “Billy”, I never questioned whether Y could be a vowel, but I never knew of a word where W was used as a vowel — until I tried to master a few words from my Welsh ancestors. There, I’m told, it makes the “oo” sound as in cool.

Now “cwm rhonda”, the most common hymn music, is perfectly pronounceable.

But then, with a shock, I realized that I couldn’t distinguish between the “consonant W” and the “vowel W” at all any more!

My given name is William, started with a great consonant W. Or is it? If I say “oo-illiam”, I can’t hear a difference.

Witch, oo-itch. Bowing, Bo-oo-ing.

Some times, I think there’s just a very subtle little difference at the start of the W, and some times I can’t hear it at all.

Now I think EVERY w is a vowel…

2010/04/23
7:53am
Brooklyn, NY
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How about the w in owl? it’s not “ool” (excepting maybe somewhere in Scotland).

I like your theory though, Bill. It’s even more interesting when you think about the “v” and “u” in Latin. Don’t I remember from Latin I (which I flunked, I’m sorry to say) that “Vini, Vidi, Vici” is correctly pronounced “weenee, weedee, weechee” (oo-ee-nee, oo-ee-dee…).

2010/04/23
11:40am
Glenn
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Oh, please don’t open the whole debate of the proper pronunciation of Latin! By the way, I love the idea of “weenee” (vini), but it is “waynee/wenny/vaynee” (veni).

(My cousin Vinnie is a Weenie who really likes hotdogs.)

2010/04/26
7:38am
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Trust me, Glenn, it’s a can of worms I’m in no way qualified to open, but I’m right about V being pronounced like W, at least sometimes?

2010/04/26
8:00am
Glenn
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Oh, yes! You are completely right. The two major camps of Latin pronunciation are typically labeled as “church Latin” and “academic Latin.” Academic Latin is usually taught with the pronunciation of the v as a w.

If the pronunciations of the consonants are under dispute, the topic of vowels is outright war.

2010/04/30
4:24pm
Bill 5
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How about the w in owl? it’s not “ool”

I tend to pronounce owl as ah-oo-l, with the vowel W. Or the diphthong version ah-oo-uhl.

Note, I do still think there’s a true consonant W, which narrows the pursed lips just ever so slightly more than the vowel W (“oo”), or the diphthong W “oo-uh”. True especially on words with an initial W (Way Word Wadio is very slightly different than oo-ay oo-erd oo-adio).

But they’re so close, especially within words (like owl) as to be difficult to distinguish.

2010/10/27
7:35pm
heathbug
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Jackie said:

I learned that phrase in elementary school in the early 70s. There was a song in the 80s by the title, “AEIOU Sometimes Y” by Ebn Ozn.


I learned the phrase as it was taught me in elementary school, “AEIOU and sometimes W and Y”. (This was in the ’50s.) Possibly it changed since then. I have heard that there WERE some words in English with “W” as the only vowel, but I can’t remember them.

Grant or Martha, what are they?

2010/10/28
12:16am
Lee
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heathbug said:

Jackie said:

I learned that phrase in elementary school in the early 70s. There was a song in the 80s by the title, “AEIOU Sometimes Y” by Ebn Ozn.


I learned the phrase as it was taught me in elementary school, “AEIOU and sometimes W and Y”. (This was in the ’50s.) Possibly it changed since then. I have heard that there WERE some words in English with “W” as the only vowel, but I can’t remember them.

Grant or Martha, what are they?


I think words borrowed from Welsh are the ones typically referred to here:
cwm
cwtch
crwth

2012/01/06
2:02pm
heathbug
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heathbug said:

Jackie said:

I learned that phrase in elementary school in the early 70s. There was a song in the 80s by the title, “AEIOU Sometimes Y” by Ebn Ozn.


I learned the phrase as it was taught me in elementary school, “AEIOU and sometimes W and Y”. (This was in the “50s.) Possibly it changed since then. I have heard that there WERE some words in English with “W” as the only vowel, but I can”t remember them.

Grant or Martha, what are they?

I always pronounce “owl” the same as “all”.

2012/01/06
7:34pm
Bob Bridges
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Heathbug, are you from the American southeast?   I live there now but I grew up in the Midwest; I pronounce “all” the same as “awl”, and “owl” to rhyme with “towel”.

There's an adaptation of IPA to ASCII characters in which those words would be spelled /Al/, /Al/, /'aw@l/ and /'taw@l/.   (.txt description available on request.)   The/@/ represents the schwa sound…though about half the time I say not /'aw@l/ and /'taw@l/ but /awl/ and /tawl/.

As for vowels, as a phonetician I agree that 'y', 'w' and also 'r' and 'l' represent vowel sounds.   For midwestern Americans you can hear the 'r' as a vowel in such words as “burr” (/br/) and “learn” (/lrn/); no midwesterner and very few Americans would pronounce these words /bVr/ or /lErn/.   The vowel 'L' can be seen in “rifle” (/raIfl/), or how I as a child used to pronounce “milk” (/mlk/).   The 'y' and 'w' sounds are, as previously remarked, simply 'ee' and 'oo'.

But there is a difference, nevertheless, between the 'r' in “royal” or “car” and that in “litter”.   The sound is the same, but in the first two examples the 'r' modifies the adjacent vowel, making the syllable a diphthong; in the last example, the 'r' is a syllable all by itself.   Students of this discipline can give each type a name and probably explain it better, but there is a difference between the 'y' in “yes” and the 'y' in “silly”, even if the difference has more to do with formal spelling than the actual sound in the mouth of the speaker.

2013/02/17
2:39am
Robert
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Bill 5 said  
Witch, oo-itch. Bowing, Bo-oo-ing.

Some times, I think there’s just a very subtle little difference at the start of the W, and some times I can’t hear it at all.

Now I think EVERY w is a vowel…

Witch needs the ‘g’ sound, some pressure on the front ceiling of the mouth. That makes w not same as oo, which is out of the throat.

No ?
2014/11/06
11:20am
Grant
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I have been wondering if I learned the “sometimes y and w” as vowels or if it’s something I was imagining. I was in elementary school in the 90’s. I remember asking teachers when I was in high school and they looked at me like I was crazy. So for those of you that said you were in elementary school in the 50s and 70s and thought they stopped talking about it shortly after, I can confirm that I learned something about it in elementary school in the 90s. Glad to see im not the only one!

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