This is from the episode "How We’re Learning To Talk To Animals" of the podcast Stuffyoushouldknow :

Josh: We're gonna go forward to Klaus Zuberbühler

Chuck: Great name.

Josh: who is Swiss as, uh, as people who name their families Zuberbühler are want(?) to be.

My sense is that "want to be" is meaning 'tending to be Swiss' in this context.

I wonder whether "want to be" is used to mean 'tending to be so' or 'having such inclination' in conversational or informal English.

  • @Rakib How about this? : as people who name their families Zuberbühler or want to be. I looked up "or" in Webster dictionary and its pronunciation phonetic alphabet is "Southern also ˈär".
    – qna
    Commented Sep 8, 2023 at 1:18
  • @Rakib Thank you very much.
    – qna
    Commented Sep 8, 2023 at 2:44
  • 1
    I don't know if this is exactly on topic, but surely those Swiss folks didn't 'name' their family Zuberbühler any more than mine 'named itself' Harvey? Is this some hastily scripted podcast thing? Commented Sep 8, 2023 at 8:19
  • @MichaelHarvey Should I close this post?
    – qna
    Commented Sep 8, 2023 at 8:22
  • 3
    "wont to be" is a simple archaic phrase you can trivially look up. The completely pointless guesses and "jokes" here have simply totally confused the OP and put OP on the completely wrong track.
    – Fattie
    Commented Sep 9, 2023 at 21:39

1 Answer 1


The word they used was not want, but wont, which is nowadays not used all that much. As a noun it means habit or practice: It was her wont to walk to school. To be wont to do something means, as you had surmised, to tend to do it, or be in the habit of doing it.

  • 7
    And from native speakers I've heard this regularly pronounced as a homophone to each of "want" and "won't" depending on the speaker. I think it's a rare enough word that a lot of people aren't really sure which is the "traditionally correct" one.
    – Muzer
    Commented Sep 8, 2023 at 10:31
  • 3
    And in this particular context, "people who name their families Zuberbühler are wont to be Swiss" is intended to be humorous, because of course people do not choose their names, nor their nationality. Commented Sep 8, 2023 at 14:59
  • 3
    Yes, @MichaelKay, it is being used ironically, which is to say, with the “are in the habit of” sense, rather than the “tend to” sense. Commented Sep 8, 2023 at 15:04
  • 2
    Worth noting that the word "wont" in this sense (not to be confused with the unrelated word "won't") is quite archaic. It is essentially never used outside this idiom, and maybe some related ones. The idiom itself is pretty archaic. It's good to be able to understand it, but it's rare and I wouldn't suggest using it. (I'm a native American English speaker from California, if this turns out to matter.) Commented Sep 9, 2023 at 2:01
  • 6
    @Fattie M-W accepts both the "want" and "won't" pronunciations. It seems they're in variation where Muzer lives, but when I'm from (Ontario, Canada), it's strictly pronounced like "want".
    – gotube
    Commented Sep 9, 2023 at 22:45

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .