The word "won't" does not look logically formed

  • #1
symbolipoint
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I've been curious about "won't" for a long time. I checked in Wikipedia to look for some explanation but nothing found was too clear.

If "won't" is to be the contraction for "WILL NOT", then the letters do not occur in the correct order. Why the o before the n? More logical should be something like "willn't" or "win't"; but neither or other is the way the contraction is done. It is done and said as "won't". I am guessing that the reason is because "won't" is eaier to say, so the pronounciation dictated the spelling.

I am interested in what the English-language linguistics people can say about this.
 

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  • #3
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It is simply a copy of don't adapted for future tense, I guess.
 
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  • #4
George Jones
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Googling
"won't" etymology
produces lots of results.
 
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TeethWhitener
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Googling

produces lots of results.
Honestly, I just googled "won't"
 
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  • #6
Klystron
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Not a linguist myself but worked with many.
I've been curious about "won't" for a long time. {snip}
I am interested in what the English-language linguistics people can say about this.
Be satisfied that the contraction "won't" remains a holdover from Old English.

Most likely one or more popular English language playwrights such as William Shakespeare or Christopher Marlowe or early writers in English such as Thomas Moore or Robert Fludd, to name a few authors, preferred this word usage or had a character use "won't" in place of "shan't" (shall not) in order to demonstrate common status by word usage.

When English scholars finally standardized spelling and usage a few hundred years later, "won't" remained in the lexicon as an acceptable contraction while "ain't" (are not) became vulgar and many other common Old English expressions simply dropped from popular use. Reading books published in English before the 20th C. or modern novels that use old forms such as Geordie, familiarize the reader with middle Old English. Be prepared to read Latin in scholarly texts and French in many novels.
 
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Most likely one or more popular English language playwrights such as William Shakespeare or Christopher Marlowe or early writers in English such as Thomas Moore or Robert Fludd, to name a few authors, preferred this word usage or had a character use "won't" in place of "shan't" (shall not) in order to demonstrate common status by word usage.
I learnt shan't at school ...
 
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  • #8
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Probably a form of "wouldn't".
 
  • #9
DaveC426913
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Not to be confused with wont.

First learned that one from Vernes' 20,000 Leagues, wherein our ersatz heroes in Nemo's iron contraption are in danger of drowning under the Arctic Ice sheet for wont of air.
 
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  • #10
Vanadium 50
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The word "won't" does not look logically formed
Unlike the entire rest of the language?
 
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  • #11
DaveC426913
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Unlike the entire rest of the language?
"The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don't just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary."
- James Nicholl
 
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  • #12
PeroK
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Not to be confused with wont.

First learned that one from Vernes' 20,000 Leagues, wherein our ersatz heroes in Nemo's iron contraption are in danger of drowning under the Arctic Ice sheet for wont of air.
That should be "want of air" surely? "Wont" is a habit. As in Captain Nemo was wont to roam the depths of the seven seas.
 
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  • #13
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Won't could be thought of as short hand for will ought not to, as a polite refusal, if and when they spoke like that amongst the nobility, and it was shortened by the common folks for fair usage, and then it makes perfect logical sense.
 
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Stephen Tashi
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The word "won't" does not look logically formed
And "formed" should be spelled "formduh"
 
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Some 18th century poets were wont to use an apostrophe in the place of the 'e' in the penultimate position in such words, in order to preserve the singularity of the syllable:

Then was the serpent temple form'd, image of infinite
Shut up in finite revolutions, and man became an Angel;
Heaven a mighty circle turning; God a tyrant crown'd.​

William Blake Europe a Prophecy (1794) lines 21-23
 
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  • #18
Klystron
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From Byron's poem "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage":

Lo! where the Giant on the mountain stands,​
His blood-red tresses deep'ning in the sun,​
With death-shot glowing in his fiery hands,​
And eye that scorcheth all it glares upon,—​
Restless it rolls, now fix'd, and now anon​
Flashing afar,—and at his iron feet​
Destruction cowers to mark what deeds are done;​
For on this morn three potent Nations meet,​
To shed before his Shrine the blood he deems most sweet.​
— Canto the First, Stanza XXXIX (lines 423–431)
The wikipedia entry describes the lengths taken by English language poets to meet the strictures imposed by adherence to rhyme and meter, as was their wont.
 
  • #19
Stephen Tashi
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in order to preserve the singularity of the syllable:
Which brings up the question of why "syllable" isn't spelled "syllabell". A similar question for all the "able" words - table, ajustable, comfortable etc. At least "label" looks right.
 
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It is simply a copy of don't adapted for future tense, I guess.
I doubt it. @TeethWhitener's link in post #2 is likely the best reason. There is some logic in English, but the logic comes from a variety or source languages with sometimes conflicting rules.
Unlike the entire rest of the language?
Right.
We don't just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary."
English has borrowed words from many languages. Here are some lesser-known loan words and the languages they're derived from.
  • kayak, anorak, nunatak (a rock that protrudes through glacial ice) - Inuit
  • dungaree, dinghy, dugong, thug, cashmere -- Hindi
  • amok, bamboo, compound (as a group of buildings), gingham -- Malay
  • jumbo, safari -- Swahili
  • cacao, avocado, chili, chocolate, coyote -- Nahuatl
  • bazaar, khaki, spinach -- Persian

Not to mention lots and lots of words derived from Native American tribes -- raccoon (Powhatan), hogan (Navaho), teepee (Lakota Sioux), and others.

At least "label" looks right.
How about "ladle"?
 
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  • #22
DaveC426913
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I usually stumble over fiber.
You mean fibre, of course.

Like litre and metre. :wink:
 
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  • #24
DaveC426913
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The French at least say what they write: table, not tabel.
Heh. I like that. I'm going to start writing all my correspondence using British/Canadian spellings for lable, decible, reble and lible.
 
  • #25
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Heh. I like that. I'm going to start writing all my correspondence using British/Canadian spellings for lable, decible, reble and lible.
And the Tower of Bable?
 

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