BRITISH DIALECT AND AMERICAN VOICES
DICKENS'S novels are filled with talk where w and v are interchanged-- Samivel and wery. I have never heard this, and most Englishmen from whom I have sought information have never heard it. But in 1927 I got a letter from an octogenarian in Toronto:
Speaking of the English in some districts of England using W for V, I was born in a remote Essex village, and lived most of my days there until I was twenty-three. Our parish had 1,000 inhabitants and I verily believe at least 800 of them would have said a thing was "wery wexatious," "wery wexing," they would have "wisitors" and "weal and winegar" were commonly used; indeed my grandmother who was from Northampton used to say there was no letter "v" in the Essex alphabet.
The w and v are also interchanged in Bermuda.
Few books are more interesting to read than dictionaries; many years ago Henry A. Beers, Professor of English Literature at Yale, gave a regular college course in Webster's Unabridged Dictionary. But the most interesting dictionary I have ever seen is A Dictionary of Modern English Usage, by H. W. Fowler. It combines learning, wisdom, humour, common sense, and an almost infallible good taste. It appeared in the nineteen-twenties, and has become not only a popular reference work, but a classic of literature. After my review of it in Scribners, the following letter came from its distinguished maker.
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Book title: Autobiography, with Letters. Contributors: William Lyon Phelps - Author. Publisher: Oxford University Press. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1939. Page number: 711.
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