Woo Woo Woo
My own misgivings about Lambert W pertain not to the
function itself but to the name. Again: Why W? Over the
years, English-speaking people have inflicted far too many
Ws on the rest of the world, from the Wicked Witch of the
West to the W boson to the World Wide Web. (Again I forgo
comment on the current occupant of the White House.) We purse our
lips painfully to pronounce doubleyou, doubleyou, doubleyou. With 26
letters to choose from, why do we keep fixing upon the only letter
in the English alphabet with a polysyllabic name? (I acknowledge
that I have made matters worse by writing this column, in which
every sentence of the text includes at least one instance of the
It's not too late to right the wrong. On a bus in Italy—a
country that doesn't even have a w in its
alfabeto—I overheard a fragment of a conversation:
Someone was reading a URL and pronounced the first part "woo
woo woo." It's a shrewd accommodation to linguistic
wimperialism. We should all adopt it. Let us keep the letter but
change the way we say it. Whether it's Lambert W or George
W. or www, it's woo all the way.
For assistance with this article I offer warm thanks to Jonathan
M. Borwein, David W. Cantrell, Robert M. Corless, David J.
Jeffrey and Tim Royappa.
© Brian Hayes