A New Word: Whicheth

January 5th, 2021

Suppose that I'm my father's 5th child. How should you frame a question to learn of that?

English doesn't have a direct way to ask that. You can ask "How many older children does your father have?" but you can't ask something in the form of "____ of your father's children are you?"

Persian has چندمین (read as "chand-omin"). "Chand" means "how many" and "omin" roughly translates to "-th" (as in "this is the Nth element in the set").

German has "wievelste". "Wie" means "how", and "viel" means "many".

While you can usually bypass the need for an English چندمین or wievelste by changing the sentence's structure, I've felt the need for a word many times. Thus, I want to make one.

The general form of the answer to "____ of your father's children are you?" is "the Nth one", so the English interrogative word for asking about an item's place in an ordered set should end in "-th".

After some thinking and research, I ended up with three candidates:

  1. Whicheth. This was the first word that came to my mind, so I'd say it's the most intuitively comprehensible.
  2. How-manyeth. This is how J.L. Austin translated the German "wievelste" in Frege's Grundlagen.
  3. What'th. Since the answer to questions of an item's place in an ordered set are in the form of "Nth", you're essentially asking "What N are you?", hence "what'th".

Whicheth is a product of intuition, how-manyeth a product of literal translation, and what'th of reasoning.

I decided to poll my majority-American friends on which word they prefer.

In the first round I pitted whicheth against how-manyeth and whicheth won 132 to 22.

Then I pitted whicheth against what'th and the results were again in favor of whicheth, 93 to 20.

Hence, I propose that we adopt usage of the word whicheth for asking about an item's place in an ordered set.

Examples:

A: "Whicheth President was Obama?"
B: "The 44th."

A: "Whicheth of your father's children are you?"
B: "The 5th."