I remember a substitute teacher in second grade. She was determined to instruct us, not merely maintain order, as the usual goal of our fill-in educators. She asked what letters were vowels. “A, E, I, O, and U” we shouted in unison.
“And sometimes…?” she encouraged us.
“Y” we called out.
She repeated her last question and we repeated our response, with irritation.
With a knowing smile, she informed us that there indeed was another sometimes vowel: W. This was news to us, and we were skeptical. As she segued into fun math tricks, I pondered if she could possibly be right.
The next day, a classmate asked our regular teacher about W being a vowel. This was apparently news to her, but not wanting to disparage a fellow educator, she made an equivocal response and changed the subject.
Since then, I’ve wondered if W could upon occasion act as a vowel. However, until recently, I’ve doubted the accuracy of the teacher’s claim.
According to the Wordsmith.org, W acting as a vowel occurs in the Welsh language. The word “cwm,” pronounced “koom,” which rhymes with room, is one example. Cwm is “a steep bowl-shaped mountain basin, carved by glaciers.”
Another Welsh word that migrated to English is crwth (pronounced krooth). It’s “an archaic stringed musical instrument” associated with Welsh music.