Originally hwa ( also hwá, hwone, hwæne, hwæt, hwæs, hwám, hwæm, hwy, or hwon … your guess at pronunciation is as good as mine), the oldest word in the English language is who, reportedly in existence for 20,000 years. Going into the last stretch of the Stone Age and prior to the advent of agriculture, the first English utterance was a question.
Now fast forward to right here and now. After all this time, we really only have three uses for who.
- Asking the question ‘what person or people?’
- Who did you meet at the conference?
To refer to someone or a group of people that have already been mentioned
- Those are the clients who first trusted in us.
In an old adage that explains what will happen to someone if they do something
- Good things happen to he who waits.
If we are exceedingly confused, aggravated or incredulous, we often intensify the question with euphemistic blasphemy or a cultural reference: Who - in creation - in the hell - in Sam Hill - in tarnation - in blue blazes - in thunderation - did you meet at the conference?
If we feel that someone is acting out of their station, we say, ‘who do you think you are?’ if you want to question someone’s authority, you can say ‘says who?’ That might show them who’s boss. ‘Who do you think you’re kidding?’ tells the listener that you caught them in a lie. ‘Who knows?’ indicates that the answer is a mystery to humankind. ‘Who would’ve thunk …’ is another way to say that you are surprised at the information. And of course, a list of ‘who’s who’ tells us who the important people are.
Now I know you’re just itching to talk to someone to practice speaking, but who? Mosey on over to the facebook group and go to the ‘wanna chew the fat?’ thread. There you will find speaking partners.