Date: Sun, 21 Jul 1996 18:54:59 -0400


Subject: Re: waft and SAE

If I could fill out my original query a bit more. Here's how I'm thinking of

this: Waft is different from craft, raft etc. because it's a book word. It

wasn't used enough in daily life to keep the collective memory going that it

should be wahft (as in wand, wad, swan. squash, quadrangle, etc.). Some

other book words like this are quaff (quaffed gets us a rhyme here with waft)

and wan. These should all historically be the same as the above list. But

when I surveyed college professors of English I found a regional variation

among the profs. There were only five from the South and they all said it

rhymed with raft. All the others but one (about a dozen I think, I haven't

got the data in front of me) said wahft. In the UK by the way they use the

vowel of FOX, not the vowel of FATHER and the vowel of raft is non-RP.

So my question was, is this really a regional variation among the

'cultivated speakers' who are the only ones likely to have heard it used very

much? It seems to me for book words like this we should have a scale:

1) I'm sure it's x

2) I use x but I'm not sure it's right

3) I have no idea.

We should also have a scale of "Correctness" for variants

1) I use x and I think it's right

2) I don't use x but it's still correct

3) I don't use x and it's incorrect

Waft to rhyme with raft sounds wrong to me, as it does in wan, and I would

have told any student that- unless it turns out to be a regionalism.

Dale Coye