A few random reflections (lunch hour) on the word What as they might be relevant to the homonymic Watt, hopefully as a prelude to other posts..
* “Deleuze associates representation with the question ‘what is it?’, and this question implies an answer in the form, “it is x”. This structure is the basic structure of judgement: the attribution of a predicate to a subject." We might say "What is Watt?" and answer "Watt is a novel". In this sense, judgement subsumes the particular under the generic, places it in a template, snips away the rough edges. But asking the question also opens the door to the vacancy of such categories.
* “What?” registers a delay between sound and sense. I heard that you were saying but not the actual words. Or a delay, a judder, between the actual words and their implication, their significance (“What the hell did you just say?!”) A consternation or bewilderment that the actual words could yield so outlandish a meaning.
* A modern idiom, a staple of sitcoms and light comedy is “What just happened?” A sequence of actions has departed from the accepted repertoire. Something has occurred, but the what is missing, the name for that something hasn’t quite been found.
* “What?” pronounced with sufficient force and incredulity is not just a question but an exclamation and response to whatever has, however momentarily, punched a hole in the available spectrum of sense. But also a demand: that whatever has happened give an account of itself to the judgement of Sense.
* "What!" is used to deflect an interrogative look – both an aggressive counter punch and a declaration of innocence.(But also a court of judgement: "be accountable to me for your look").
* If "What is it?" demands that we subsume the particular under the general, the scholastic concept "Whatness" is a way of naming whatever is irreducibly particular about a thing, that which is surpus to general categories.