About three years back I concluded that, based upon usage in present-day language, the determinative Wh- refers to questions, questioning and things questionable. This interpretation holds up in the ideas within such words as whale, wheat and white. When I later found ‘whough’ in Halliwell’s “Dictionary of Archaic Words”, an older spelling of ‘how’, I felt my assertion had finally met my required three supports. The usage is runically defensible but, I have still been bothered by the lack of breadth in my proofs Since qu- is at the beginning of words of questioning and qu- represents Cweorth, the symbol of the bonfire of the Celtic holiday, Beltane, the associations are plausible (cw Latinized to qu). I still wanted to get either a tighter association between wh- and qu-, perhaps a distinction regarding specific differences in types of questioning or a difference in fundamental principles being addressed by each of them. I’ve read in textbooks that Qu was an
attempt by French scholars to add class by using the Latin Q instead of cw.
There is an important aside to be made which is too immediately and broadly relevent to put in a footnote. We have become obsessed with answers to the extent of interfering with learning. Having to have answers for every question is a conceit we cannot afford as it interferes with thought processes. The choice of cw over qu does not warrant such interference. Frequently, we need only to make a mental note, read more and await our internal processing.
Today, in the “Cambridge Encyclopedia of The English Language”, I found a section on the Anglicization of the Scottish language. It notes that the quh- spelling of words such as which and who were changed to wh- beginning in 1520, and that usage increased to eighty percent by 1650. It is looking even more like the peoples languages were indeed made from the same basic hotplate of sense elements and then borrowed and exchanged among the various languages as the people felt so inclined. This does give more weight to my observations about wh- and gives the practice antiquity. I suggest we look more closely at all wh- and qu- words to discern what questions need more reflection.
This one bit of information about quh- and wh- calls up another matter which would benefit from more reflection. The texts are quick to rationalize ‘conquest’, as in some people invading, with presumed hostile intent, and ‘conquering’ the indigenous population. This presumption then becomes the basis for new words conquering the local words. I’m discovering a whole new (to me) mythology about the almost omnipotent power of War Chiefs. Here we need an example: the men from the Northern areas became Vikings (a kind of pirate), then northmen, Norsemen, Normans, Normandy (men), French and Gauls. At the beginning of the First Millennium, they were ferocious pirates. In mid-millennium they founded Dublin and were ruling parts of Ireland. By the end, they were in England (think King John and Richard the Lion-hearted), France, Normandy and some of these Normans had founded the kingdom of Sicily in Italy.
When one reads ‘history’ their ventures sound like they were violent raiders, rapists and robbers. When we read about their conquests, they morph or transform into kings or rulers of countries. These ‘conquests’ often resulted from their genius for a particular job -at the time that genius was required. The word ‘war’ is about group energies bringing a ‘new order’.
These peoples are treated by ‘history’ as completely different tribes. There is, and was even then, no distinct difference among all Celtic, Semitic and Nordic peoples. At times some tribes distinguished themselves by particular customs thereby making themselves appear singular. Both ancient and modern historians have classified tribes under differing and varied groups: Germans become Celts and Celts Germans, Norse become Semitic (Tribe of Dan) or Indo-Aryan. Semitic peoples have been in the British Isles since the first millennium and Cohan is a good Irish name. The Brits and the French both seem to forget their Celtic origins. With raiding, raping, pillaging and enslaving, it is a natural outcome that there would be no pure races or tribes for very long.
My head fairly spins in circles trying to reconcile contradictions. When my internal processing shifts the gears, I recognize the Myths of Norsemen have an Ash temperament. Think Yggdrasil, the Ash tree supporting the three levels of Earth. During the first millennium, they too were gaining peoples’ languages and using them to.develop their gifts, their particular genius. They too were in Ireland (free of Roman restraint), surrounded by devout student/teachers from all around the world and able to study in university, in the fields or other hedgerow schools.
Notice all of the words, in just the last three paragraphs, which contain wh- and qu-. Each of those words signals our internal processing gears to be cognizant -alert for the intrinsic quest. Gears have ‘cogs’ and a cog is a gear tooth[ref]A cog is an Irish word for a gear tooth. There is no reason why it cannot also be a Greek word since ideas and words were taken from all the peoples[/ref]which meshes with other gear teeth so that our ideas are cogent and based in cognitive activity.
Conquest does not require violence any more than ‘requiring’ does. Any place there is a qu- the idea of questing can be inserted.[ref]See postings of 3-18-2013 The Thousand Year Academy: ‘A Requiem? 4-01-2013The Academy, Part 2: A Requisite and Academy: The Saga, Part III[/ref]The three postings cited in this footnote refer to many qu- words which don’t usually have the meaning of questing. That is because meaning refers to the average of the way a word is used or understood and the way we arrive at a meaning.[ref]Posting of 9-16-2011 “The Problem of Meaning” by Michael Rosen.[/ref] It often has nothing to do with the actual sense of the word, a fact which can confound our understanding. A conspicuous instance of this is the sense of equality.
When we reconsider the intrinsic sense of each word containing or beginning with ‘qu’, we need to grip the sides of our boat as, this new insight will really rock it. The word inquisition, as in the Spanish Inquisition, becomes a real misnomer. The people were not being questioned so much as being challenged and then punished for having a contradictory point of view. This hostile interpretation of ‘question’ brought to mind a section I wrote several years ago, entitled “Table of Words”, which addressed the hostile way we use questions. We do this by couching a reprimand as a question, as in ‘Who told you that you could go?’ and ‘What did I just hear you say?’ An inquiring mind can sound like a dangerous thing to have. This brings a lot of questions to my mind: How can we redeem words like ‘conquest’ to carry the meaning of ‘with questing, together’? ‘What do you think this means?’ If we all think a question needs to have an answer and that it has to be a ‘right’ answer, we will be back in an adverse position to one another. Moreover, we will make precious little progress in our thinking skills. Perhaps we could make a point of suggesting we further consider such matters when we start questioning them.
[ref]There are many words beginning with wh- which are related to the wealth of words beginning with the definitive th-. They are being covered in the section entitled “Table of Words”. These are among our most-used words on every list I’ve seen. They can be quite demanding and insistent; but, are much more easily understood and distinguished from one another once they are broken down into their shared sense elements.[/ref]05-05-2016 JOH
- Judith has written (and re-written) the pages below, initially for a book and now for this website. These files are still under revision, and should not be treated as stable documents.