Internet vocabulary question and answer

In the comments over at Balloon Juice’s Florida Primary Open Thread I saw the word “pwned” again, for the umpteenth time, in this case, as in

Jonah Goldberg got punked’….

Please. We should be more high minded and serious about our political discourse. Jonah got … PWNED!”

That did it — I finallly broke down and admitted to mysef that I’ve never known how to say the damn word — seemingly so important for contemporary ‘net communication.

So, violating the terms of my Y chromosome, I looked it up here.

The best thing I learned is that there are just two words — count ’em! — in English that use “w” as a vowel. Both are loan words from Welsh, no language for those who fear consonants. They are cwm, rhymes with “tomb”, meaning a cirque — a feature formed at the leading edge of a glacier; and crwth, a Welsh lyre, rhymes with “tooth.”

As the Wikipedia entry solemnly points out, that suggests that the correct pronounciation of pwn is “poon,” as in Jonah just got ‘pooned.

Maybe you all knew that, but I am greatly relieved to have that settled.
Even better — there’s a sort onomotopeia going here. That pronounciation just sounds right for the meaning…and it has a nice echo from the use of the word for all sorts of misbehaviour going on in Neal Stephenson’s ur-Cyberspace text, Snow Crash.

Image: Walfgang Zwischen, “A New England Whaler,” 1856. U.S. Library of Congress. Source: Wikipedia Commons.

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5 Comments on “Internet vocabulary question and answer”

  1. rachel Says:

    If we’re being solemn about it, the subtle key to pronouncing this one is to think “owned” so phonetically, that’d be p-oh-ned. At least that’s how it goes in my head.

    While we’re on the subject…

    Don’t make the mistake of “ell-oh-ell”ing in your everyday speech. All the hip kids pronounce it lawl or lul.

    rotfl is pronounced “roftle”, don’t pay any attention to the actual order of the letters. These days, roftle-copter is a more common exclamation, mirth I believe.

    omg is often used with an added z at the end for emphasis: omgz
    contrary to expectations, this is pronounced fully when spoken aloud: ohmygodz!

    omgz!!11!!eleven is the one of most appropriate written ways to denote excitement so extreme that the ability to hold down the shift key has deserted you.

  2. Andrew M Says:

    We don’t need vowels. We’ve got a dragon on our flag.

  3. Michelle S Says:

    All the nerds/hackers I know (with various degrees of skill in this area) say “powned,” with a long “O”, as Rachel suggested, and with a sort of extra emphasis on the “P”. However, they all also say that no one should use the word pwned anymore. So perhaps it’s moot. Or perhaps it’s “mwt”.

    Personally, I’m just happy to see a Snow Crash reference! Next up: read Zodiac. Even funnier than Snow Crash, and set in Beantown. See if you can catch the connection between the two books, and no using Wikipedia 😉

  4. rachel Says:


    1334 speak is done sardonically or sarcastically. It’s used. just not in seriousness anymore (if it ever was). It’s still useful for emulating tweens.

  5. […] for the web-slang term “pwn” — which apparently rhymes with “own.”  I had previously suggested at least partly tongue-in-cheek that it might derive from the Welsh use of the “w” as a […]

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