Write or Wrong

Have you ever wondered why some words like write and wrong begin with a silent W?

Of course you haven’t, but luckily for you, I have.

The answer is fairly straightforward, and so different from the explanation for many other silent letters in English. Basically, it used to be pronounced in Proto-Germanic, but it gradually stopped being pronounced long before modern English came about. In the 10th and 11th century Wr started to be replaced by just R, which is why you don’t find Wr in modern German.

For some reason though, we’ve kept the Wr spelling in English. Probably we’ve always known that the W was silent, so we were never confused enough by it to bother getting rid of it.

The funny thing about it is, that if we tried to get rid of it now, it’d feel very strange, and I think a lot of people would resist the idea. I mean, could you imagine someone telling you that you were spelling a word rong? Even changing write to rite, which exists as a word in English (albeit with different meaning), would be weird.

Losing the W shouldn’t be a problem, but I can’t imagine spelling words that way. For all I write about how confusing and illogical English can be, I still wouldn’t have it any other way. I like my Wr words. It’s not logical, but I don’t care. It’s all part of the chaotic tapestry that gives English its unique charm.

11 thoughts on “Write or Wrong

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