Via Tim, I have been introduced to Emily’s blog, and her adventures as a brand-new immigrant to Norway (which I am reading with almost as much wonder as a native Norwegian since I have never been that kind of immigrant). She is going through the experiences most immigrants to Norway go through, including the Norwegian for foreigners classes. I never did that, so there are some aspects of Norwegian that I have never questioned, having learned it as a child in a Norwegian school, but Emily did. She was wondering about W.
This is part of the comment I left on her blog:
W is […] not used in actual Norwegian. It, along with c, q, x and z, exists mainly to accommodate old-fashioned spellings of names, like Aschehoug (Askehaug) or Wiik (Vik). (The Norwegian alphabet has been through some evolutions, as has the English.) To a Norwegian, W looks like V, anyway, a concept that is baffling to an English-speaker. But V and W are interchangeable to a Norwegian as they sound exactly the same.
I didn’t actually realize how ingrained the interchangability of V and W was until I returned to this country in 1981. Then, Levi’s with the characteristic little red tag was all the rage. And very expensive at the time, costing about NOK 500-700 (they still do so inflation’s down and purchasing power is up). So a friend of mine was delighted when she saw a sign in a shop window that read: LEWIS JEANS KR 199,- (kr 199,- is how you write 199 kroner).
She was absolutely certain she’d just come across one helluva bargain. I tried to point out that she hadn’t. My friend aced English in school, and yet she could not see the difference between LEVI’S and LEWIS. The apostrophe isn’t used much in Norwegian and since W is seen as V (and pronounced the same), she read the two names as sounding alike (“leh-viss”). I did finally get her to understand that there was a difference in English.
Norwegian does use W and C a lot in one way: Restrooms are often marked WC, rumored to stand for Winston Churchill as he apparantly was born in a water closet…