Thursday, 4 November 2010

Understanding English

I don’t pretend to. I know the basics. But something 3 year old Imogen says has made me think.

For will not, she says “willn’t”. I thought she was wrong, but that it made perfect sense. More sense than “won’t”. What it says to me is that she has a good understanding of how our language works.

So I looked up willn’t. Apparently Charlotte Bronte used it in “Shirley” as it was local Yorkshire dialect. Perhaps it still is! Imogen is one quarter Yorkshire.

At one time in some parts of the country people said wol instead of will. But as the language developed we seem to have hung on to the wo bit for the negative and will for the positive.

Conclusion – it seems that willn’t is the archaic form of won’t and it may just be as simple as won’t being easier to say than willn’t.

And upon further investigation, I find there is even a Facebook page dedicated to willn’t. It is called "Willn't, the grammatical contraction of the future".

I think I prefer won’t, but this is the joy of having a living language. It could change back to willn’t one day. And why not? My spell checker doesn’t like it, but Imogen does.


  1. I think willn't sounds lovely.
    My Scottish husband says 'amn't I?' instead of 'aren't I?', which is really more correct, but I've not heard English people say it (though I suppose they may do in regional dialects.)

  2. Ain't language wonderful?
    And English is the best!

  3. Sounds like a good word to me. Very olde English. I used to make up my own words when I was learning conversational German :O)

  4. Fantastic! Well done, Imogen! I think it's a great word. We say dunna for don't, wunna for won't, and cunna for can't round these parts!

    Julie xx

  5. Sounds like your grandaughter has a handle on the logic of language (not that English is at all logical!) One of the things I love about English is the weirdness of it and the way it has evolved over time. Just think about all the stuff we include in womag stories nowadays which would have been frowned on only a few years ago! The written word follows the spoken trend, so maybe in a few years time we'll all be saying willn't! x

  6. Hi Theresa

    Aren't kids fantastic, sometimes I think its a shame that adults aren't as logical.

    It's good that you've recorded it on this blog too. I know my kids used to say all sorts of funny things but as I didn't write them down I've forgotten them. Shame on me.

    I'll just have to wait for grandchildren - but not for a while I hope.


  7. Bernadette - I used to have a very dear Scottish friend who used to ask me to say things and then laugh his socks off at the way I said them! I think “amn’t I” is lovely and as you say, perfectly correct!

    I quite agree, Keith. I love our language.

    Good for you, Madeleine! Making up words is fun !

    Lovely, Julie. I love accents – except mine which I hate!

    They do say English is one of the most difficult languages to learn don’t they, Lydia. And when you think of the amount of words we have that sound the same and are spelled differently. Or look the same but are said differently! Makes it a very interesting language!

    Imogen will be delighted to hear that Caroline :-)

    They say so many things that we forget, Linda. I found a sheet of paper the other week on which I’d written words my daughter used to say at 19 months. It was a lovely find! Needless to say I’ve put it away somewhere safe – but can’t remember where! Argh!

  8. Willn't is quaint and lovely, and I hope Imogen isn't talked (or taught) out of her originality.

  9. I haven't heard willn't before, but it does have a nice ring to it. I suppose on that principle we should also say shalln't.

  10. Quaint - yes, Frances, that's a great word for it. I hope she isn't taught out of her originality too!

    I think I'm going to say willn't from now on, Joanne :-)