Weald - wheeled - wield

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Weald, wheeled and wield form one of the sets of homophones listed by the then Poet Laureate Robert Bridges.
(For more, see Bridges homophones). AWE has a category listing our articles on each of these. To most speakers of 'educated Southern English', to use Bridges' term, they are homophones, though to speakers of other varieties, notably Scots, wheeled is distinguished by the 'wh-' consonant. IPA: /ʍ/, which does not exist in Southern English. ('weeld', IPA: /wiːld/). Weald and wield are not hard to tell apart. The verb 'to wield' is the commoner.

  • The Weald (nearly always The Weald) is a geographical term in the UK - "The name of the tract of country, formerly wooded, including the portions of Sussex, Kent, and Surrey which lie between the North and South Downs" (OED). It contains iron ore, and was the centre of the English iron industry in the past, when the woods provided the fuel. There are now fewer woods left in the modern area called The Weald. The name also survives in Harrow Weald and Wealdstone (two adjacent areas of northeast London in the borough of Harrow), and in North Weald, South Weald, Lower Weald, Middle Weald, and Upper Weald (all villages or hamlets in Essex).
Etymological note: Weald is an Old English form of Germanic wald current in West Saxon. Modern German still uses wald to mean 'forest', as in Schwarzwald, 'the Black Forest'. It is cognate with Wold, as in the Yorkshire Wolds (North and East of Hull) and their continuation South of the Humber, the Lincolnshire Wolds; and in the Cotswolds (in Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire).
There is a related adjective, wealden, 'to do with or related to the Weald. This is applied substantively by geologists to a series of strata formed from estuarine and freshwater deposits of Lower Cretaceous age. (A cognate Proper noun, Walden, is the title of a book by Thoreau, named after Walden Pond in Massachusetts beside which he lived for a couple of years.)
  • 'To wield' is 'to hold and use' a weapon or tool, etc. One can 'wield a sword or an axe'; a writer can be said to 'wield a pen'. By extension, one can 'wield authority or power', and figuratively 'wield a sceptre' - that is, rule (in a monarchy).
There is a related adjective wieldy', which means: easy to hold, use, or manage – an adjective much less frequently encountered than its opposite unwieldy, used of objects or bodies which, because of their size weight, or shape, are difficult to hold, use, or manage.
  • Wheeled is both past forms of the verb 'to wheel', and thus may be a statement of a past event ('the regiment wheeled right as it passed the saluting stand'), or the participial adjective meaning 'equipped with wheels'.