The Continuing Insult To The English Language

ShadyCavalier

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It must be a EU (well, EEA) conspiracy regarding dodgy bus company names.
Now, I was quick to correct you (in my mind, at least) with the phrase "a EU", but then I questioned whether the abbreviation gets its own grammar, or if the grammar should always relate to the constituent parts of the abbreviation. Should it be an EU as we would say "the EU is spelled with an E and a U" - or should it be a EU as we would say "a European Union official told us we should say 'an EU', at least until Brexit is sorted"?
 

Ermintruder

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Not convinced.

My strong impression is that Americans (cf Universal Standard English outwith Commonwealth) use the words 'presently' and 'momentarily' to mean sequentially imminent, ie the very-next instance to occur.

This is perhaps crystallised by the word order phrase "I'll be there presently"- an American means they will be there, as a future stated intention. But this is a paradox to Commonwealth English speakers, for whom 'presently' and 'currently' are the equivalent synonym pairing.

For us, someone who says they will be somewhere presently is (in part...?) already there. Obviously, American/ USE (Universal Standard English) will win, and us olds will be ploughed into the field as fertiliser- but I'm intrigued as to when Hollywood began pushing this form. My gut feeling is less than twenty years.

I still miss Alastair Cook (warts & all). I bet he would've....well: I suspect he would've favoured the Commonwealth style
 

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Not convinced.

My strong impression is that Americans (cf Universal Standard English outwith Commonwealth) use the words 'presently' and 'momentarily' to mean sequentially imminent, ie the very-next instance to occur.

This is perhaps crystallised by the word order phrase "I'll be there presently"- an American means they will be there, as a future stated intention. But this is a paradox to Commonwealth English speakers, for whom 'presently' and 'currently' are the equivalent synonym pairing.

For us, someone who says they will be somewhere presently is (in part...?) already there. Obviously, American/ USE (Universal Standard English) will win, and us olds will be ploughed into the field as fertiliser- but I'm intrigued as to when Hollywood began pushing this form. My gut feeling is less than twenty years.

I still miss Alastair Cook (warts & all). I bet he would've....well: I suspect he would've favoured the Commonwealth style
Actually you don't hear presently in the US. Currently is now, and soon is soon, and if necessary very soon is very soon. I have always assumed presently meant soon but not imminently (which you rarely hear in the US in daily speech)
 

EnolaGaia

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Ermintruder:

You seem to be operating under the misapprehension that it's an either / or situation. It isn't ...

'Presently' has always carried two meanings (both 'now' and 'soon'). In conventional usage they are differentiated by context (the temporal framing of the subsuming phrase / sentence).

"The national debt presently stands at ..." (tense = current; meaning = now)
"The ambulance should be here presently ..." (tense = future / prospective; meaning = soon)

For example, see:

https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/presently

Presently can mean both ‘now, at this moment’ and ‘soon’. Both senses go back to the Middle Ages. The former sense fell into disfavour between the 17th and 20th centuries and some traditionalists still object to it, but it is widely used and generally regarded as acceptable standard English
I've heard both in American usage dating back to my childhood.

It surprised me to learn it was the 'now' version that "fell into disfavour" because it's the 'soon' version that's rarely been encountered in my experience, and then always coming from an older speaker given to antiquated phrasing.
 

Yithian

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"The national debt presently stands at ..." (tense = current; meaning = now)
"The ambulance should be here presently ..." (tense = future / prospective; meaning = soon)
I'd always use 'currently' for the first example.

I've certainly heard presently for the first, but I can't recall ever reading it.
 

EnolaGaia

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I'd always use 'currently' for the first example.
I've certainly heard presently for the first, but I can't recall ever reading it.
My recollection is usually encountering the 'now' sense by hearing it in relatively formal speech (e.g., a broadcast news anchor).
 

AlchoPwn

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Has the BBC now decided that presently is a synonym for currently?
https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-47507787
I'm still teaching that it isn't.
Speaking of the BBC, it is a rather unfortunate choice of letters since its appropriation by the porn industry. I know the British Broadcasting Commission was around long before the porn useage too. Still, it makes me smirk when I listen in and hear "This is the BBC in (location)". Schoolboy humor, I know. I am surprised that there hasn't been a comedy show that has made use of the joke with a penis puppet in a suit.
 

ShadyCavalier

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Not convinced.

My strong impression is that Americans (cf Universal Standard English outwith Commonwealth) use the words 'presently' and 'momentarily' to mean sequentially imminent, ie the very-next instance to occur.

This is perhaps crystallised by the word order phrase "I'll be there presently"- an American means they will be there, as a future stated intention. But this is a paradox to Commonwealth English speakers, for whom 'presently' and 'currently' are the equivalent synonym pairing.

For us, someone who says they will be somewhere presently is (in part...?) already there. Obviously, American/ USE (Universal Standard English) will win, and us olds will be ploughed into the field as fertiliser- but I'm intrigued as to when Hollywood began pushing this form. My gut feeling is less than twenty years.

I still miss Alastair Cook (warts & all). I bet he would've....well: I suspect he would've favoured the Commonwealth style
Thankfully, EnolaGaia cleared this up already. People are quick to blame Americans for distorting the English language, when in actual fact a lot of the words and phrases we deem to be American were brought over from England in the first place.
 

AlchoPwn

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Thankfully, EnolaGaia cleared this up already. People are quick to blame Americans for distorting the English language, when in actual fact a lot of the words and phrases we deem to be American were brought over from England in the first place.
LOL, USA, guilty as charged. Mr Webster took a look at Oxford English and decided to do some renovations. He knocked out some dead wood but also added some ugliness. Sometimes it seems like a good idea. I mean "though" to "tho"; you would need to be a Welshman with permanent bronchitis to be able to pronounce all the redundant letters in "though". We Americans also drop a load of redundant letter "u"s in words, but I confess that I often think the words look prettier somehow with the "u"s included. Perhaps one doesn't regard "u" as a particularly decorative letter, but there is a harshness to US spelling without it. Or am I going crazy? You decide.

Of course in the US, we have singular collective nouns. Thus my team is on hiatus, rather than the British my team are on hiatus. I could go either way on that one. Both variations have skipped the pond in both directions.

Then there is the English habit of the "tag question" by way of small-talk i.e. "Grim day out, isn't it?", which is a handy conversation starter as it invites a response and initiates communication. It isn't that Americans don't small talk, but we don't open with tag questions to start it. In the USA people are a lot more likely to say "Hi, I'm Joe, I'm from Arkansas..." to which you say words to the effect of "Hi Joe, I'm Paul. I'm from round here...". I probably should know my country's eccentricities in this area better, but identity and place seem to be foundations of establishing communications. The bit that freaks out foreigners is when the American then proceeds to tell you about their time in prison, drug rehab or a mental institution. Believe it or not, this is actually an "apology in advance" if their behavior seems off, and telling you upfront what their bad points are. By being honest and upfront about their problems they are trying to establish trust, but it is super-awkward and a bit disturbing for non-Americans who just don't do this.

Also English people allegedly say "shall", in place of "should". On the other hand we Americans make far too much use of the extremely ugly word "gotten", which I take as a reference to the Germanic migration to the USA in the 1880s.

The real difference is in spin however. There is often cultural subtext and assumption bundled in the way a sentence is spoken, and what the implications of it are that leave me utterly baffled despite apparently using the same language. I seldom get culture shocked in the UK, but for me that is the worst. On the other hand, I undestand that some English people get culture shock from travelling 2 counties over, so I don't feel so bad.
 
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Yithian

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Of course in the US, we have singular collective nouns. Thus my team is on hiatus, rather than the British my team are on hiatus. I could go either way on that one. Both variations have skipped the pond in both directions.
Not so clear cut. People in the U.S. use some collective nouns as plural: The police are investigating...

Brits use both singulars and plurals as appropriate.

The couple were finally reunited...

(it is logically impossible to reunite a singlular thing).
The band was split on the issue of whether to sign...

(The individuals in the band were not each divided, the group that they collectively formed was).
 
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AlchoPwn

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Not so clear cut. People in the U.S. use some collective nouns as plural: The police are investigating... Brits use both singulars and plurals as appropriate. The couple were finally reunited...(it is logically impossible to reunite a singlular thing). The band was split on the issue of whether to sign...(The individuals in the band were not each divided, the group that they collectively formed was).
Agreed. I was just commenting on a few general things I had noticed and what a linguistics buddy was telling me over a pint when we were comparing notes. I don't pretend to be 100% accurate or 100% inclusive, merely perhaps to provoke some discussion.
 

EnolaGaia

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Not so clear cut. People in the U.S. use some collective nouns as plural: The police are investigating...
Brits use both singulars and plurals as appropriate. ...
It's the same in American English, but it's taught as a situation-specific usage option rather than a formal either / or rule. It's the speaker's choice to address something as a whole set versus a collection of the set's members, but the choice of set / members allusion becomes part of the semantic content being expressed.

If the speaker is treating the collective (singular; overall; whole) as the focal object of reference, the singular form is both preferred and serves as a cue to the referential level being addressed. Informally, it's generally assumed that invocation of any proper group / organization name or title is taking this 'as a whole' approach.

If, on the other hand, the speaker is alluding to the collective as a group of individuals, the plural form is appropriate for cueing finer-grained reference to the multiple members of the set rather than the set overall.

Of course, leaving such subtleties to individual discretion results in many individuals misusing or mis-applying them.
 

Yithian

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It's the same in American English, but it's taught as a situation-specific usage option rather than a formal either / or rule. It's the speaker's choice to address something as a whole set versus a collection of the set's members, but the choice of set / members allusion becomes part of the semantic content being expressed.
I would say that's the same as in the UK, but I keep on hearing that it's more dogmatic in the U.S.

Sounds as if I've been misinformed.
 

EnolaGaia

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I would say that's the same as in the UK, but I keep on hearing that it's more dogmatic in the U.S.
Sounds as if I've been misinformed.
Maybe they're teaching it differently nowadays. I was attesting to the way I was taught 50+ years ago.

The effect to which you refer may be a matter of situation-specific conventions rather than dogma, and one of your examples ("the police are investigating") illustrates this.

There is no single or overall "the police" in the USA.

For example, a traffic accident or driving violation may fall under the jurisdictions of multiple organizations - municipal police; county sheriff's departments; state highway patrols; and even federal agencies if certain things like hazmat or long-haul interstate vehicles are involved.

In this context 'police' can be seen as a meta-collective noun vaguely pointing to a indefinitely and variably combined bag of things, each one of which is a collective itself. In other words "the police" connotes a broadly inclusive category of 'law enforcement authorities and agencies' rather than anything as specific as 'our town's finest'.

My guess is that "the police are ..." is a general convention newscasters use as a shortcut for connoting "whichever / whatever folks with badges are involved."
 

Ladyloafer

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Now, I was quick to correct you (in my mind, at least) with the phrase "a EU", but then I questioned whether the abbreviation gets its own grammar, or if the grammar should always relate to the constituent parts of the abbreviation. Should it be an EU as we would say "the EU is spelled with an E and a U" - or should it be a EU as we would say "a European Union official told us we should say 'an EU', at least until Brexit is sorted"?
Intriging. I suppose when saying 'EU' we are saying the letters; eee yoo so 'an EU' is correct because we pronounce the E.
when we say 'European' the E sounds different. It's almost silent 'yoor-oh-pee-an' so we say 'a European' because that is correct for Y sounds.

Wait? Is that what you said?
 

ShadyCavalier

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LOL, USA, guilty as charged. Mr Webster took a look at Oxford English and decided to do some renovations. He knocked out some dead wood but also added some ugliness. Sometimes it seems like a good idea. I mean "though" to "tho"; you would need to be a Welshman with permanent bronchitis to be able to pronounce all the redundant letters in "though". We Americans also drop a load of redundant letter "u"s in words, but I confess that I often think the words look prettier somehow with the "u"s included. Perhaps one doesn't regard "u" as a particularly decorative letter, but there is a harshness to US spelling without it. Or am I going crazy? You decide.

Of course in the US, we have singular collective nouns. Thus my team is on hiatus, rather than the British my team are on hiatus. I could go either way on that one. Both variations have skipped the pond in both directions.

Then there is the English habit of the "tag question" by way of small-talk i.e. "Grim day out, isn't it?", which is a handy conversation starter as it invites a response and initiates communication. It isn't that Americans don't small talk, but we don't open with tag questions to start it. In the USA people are a lot more likely to say "Hi, I'm Joe, I'm from Arkansas..." to which you say words to the effect of "Hi Joe, I'm Paul. I'm from round here...". I probably should know my country's eccentricities in this area better, but identity and place seem to be foundations of establishing communications. The bit that freaks out foreigners is when the American then proceeds to tell you about their time in prison, drug rehab or a mental institution. Believe it or not, this is actually an "apology in advance" if their behavior seems off, and telling you upfront what their bad points are. By being honest and upfront about their problems they are trying to establish trust, but it is super-awkward and a bit disturbing for non-Americans who just don't do this.

Also English people allegedly say "shall", in place of "should". On the other hand we Americans make far too much use of the extremely ugly word "gotten", which I take as a reference to the Germanic migration to the USA in the 1880s.

The real difference is in spin however. There is often cultural subtext and assumption bundled in the way a sentence is spoken, and what the implications of it are that leave me utterly baffled despite apparently using the same language. I seldom get culture shocked in the UK, but for me that is the worst. On the other hand, I undestand that some English people get culture shock from travelling 2 counties over, so I don't feel so bad.
Interesting insights from the other side of the mirror. I agree that American English both adds and takes away from British English (whatever that is), but I believe the 'u' in colour comes from the French, along with many other common English language eccentricities... there isn't really a right or wrong in most cases - "gotten", which you mention, for instance, is perfectly acceptable as far as I'm aware. However, I do object to American business jargon. I will never be able to action something that has been cascaded down to me going forward. Blergh.
 

ShadyCavalier

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Intriging. I suppose when saying 'EU' we are saying the letters; eee yoo so 'an EU' is correct because we pronounce the E.
when we say 'European' the E sounds different. It's almost silent 'yoor-oh-pee-an' so we say 'a European' because that is correct for Y sounds.

Wait? Is that what you said?
I suppose the first letter that's pronounced in 'European' is really the 'u', and I can't think of any words off the top of my head that begin with a strong 'u' that would also deserve an 'an' before them. Can 'u'?
 

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Well, as a child, I recall the Beano would write phonetically, sometimes "Ew", sometimes "Eew", and occasionally "Eeeuww".
However, linguistically, Europa is derived from the Greek, εὐρύς eurys "wide" and ὤψ ops "face", in otherwords, Mooney. Courtesy WP.
 
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My strong impression is that Americans (cf Universal Standard English outwith Commonwealth) use the words 'presently' and 'momentarily' to mean sequentially imminent, ie the very-next instance to occur.
Shirley 'momentarily' means 'briefly, fleetingly, ephemerally'?

My grandmother always used 'presently' to mean 'soon' or 'in good time' - perhaps a more delicate English version of mañana, but meaning 'when I've finished this crossword', rather than 'if I can be arsed at some indeterminate point in the future'.
 

Ermintruder

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Shirley 'momentarily' means 'briefly, fleetingly, ephemerally'?
To the ears of most current Bringlish speakers, yes.

But I suspect we're going to find-out that the Pilgram Fathers, at the point in time just before they arrived in the 'New' World...when they shouted across to Tisquantum "We'll be with you momentarily..."...their statement did not really mean the same as he (or us Brits now) might've thought.
 
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LOL, USA, guilty as charged. Mr Webster took a look at Oxford English and decided to do some renovations. He knocked out some dead wood but also added some ugliness. Sometimes it seems like a good idea. I mean "though" to "tho"; you would need to be a Welshman with permanent bronchitis to be able to pronounce all the redundant letters in "though".
LOL - or should I say, 'Llolcwh'

Also English people allegedly say "shall", in place of "should". On the other hand we Americans make far too much use of the extremely ugly word "gotten", which I take as a reference to the Germanic migration to the USA in the 1880s.
No, 'shall' and 'shan't' are alternatives to 'will' and 'won't' and such opinion-formers as the BBC have been announcing their disappearance from the language for years as they seem to hate them for some reason. However they seem to be making a comeback (I like to think I've done my bit, forsooth).

I don't mind 'gotten', except when Brits use it in a wanky attempt to sound American. It's an interesting survival from when English had many more Germanic-style rules (or Scandinavian?) such as cases and so on. I'm pretty sure it was in use in Elizabethan England.

... and that's the usual (and quite reasonable) defence of 'Americanisms' isn't it: "Hmm, well it was good enough for Shakespeare" - 'normalcy', for example.
 

AlchoPwn

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LOL - or should I say, 'Llolcwh'
Gaelic languages have more redundant letters than Old French, and I consider Old French to have vandalised Old Anglo-Saxon.

No, 'shall' and 'shan't' are alternatives to 'will' and 'won't' and such opinion-formers as the BBC have been announcing their disappearance from the language for years as they seem to hate them for some reason. However they seem to be making a comeback (I like to think I've done my bit, forsooth).
Prithee, thy point be taken. Perchance methinks I expressed that whole business poorly? I know that "Shall we be off to the pub then?" is a very English turn of phrase that you wouldn't hear in the USA. The US equivalent, is more "Time to hit the bar?".

I don't mind 'gotten', except when Brits use it in a wanky attempt to sound American. It's an interesting survival from when English had many more Germanic-style rules (or Scandinavian?) such as cases and so on. I'm pretty sure it was in use in Elizabethan England.
UR dead to me (jk).

... and that's the usual (and quite reasonable) defence of 'Americanisms' isn't it: "Hmm, well it was good enough for Shakespeare" - 'normalcy', for example.
My understanding is that a lot of US English has its origins in western county accents. The hard rhotic "R" of the US is from Cornwall. The determination to pronounce every letter in a word was learned thru substandard teaching practices at Martha's Vineyard. I have moderated by rhotic R a bit and can turn it on and off now. I can also roll my R like a slav, which I learned to do over homebrewed vodka in tumblers.
 

AlchoPwn

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Intriging. I suppose when saying 'EU' we are saying the letters; eee yoo so 'an EU' is correct because we pronounce the E. when we say 'European' the E sounds different. It's almost silent 'yoor-oh-pee-an' so we say 'a European' because that is correct for Y sounds. Wait? Is that what you said?
Who remembers Bill & Ted "You're a peon.", "No, you're a peon." I feel so old. I have also had some mean fun getting my countrymen who are bad at geography to try to pronounce "Uruguay", as with the Martha's Vineyard penchant for pronouncing every letter, it demands a reprimand for homophobia.
 

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I have never quite understood the usage of plural verbs with singular nouns (subjunctive?) as in "I wouldn't do that if I were you." and "I find myself wishing she were here."

Also, when did the doubling of final consonants go out of vogue? I find that word processing software (e.g. MS Word) will flag them as misspellings - "travelling abroad", for example.
 

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I have never quite understood the usage of plural verbs with singular nouns (subjunctive?) as in "I wouldn't do that if I were you." and "I find myself wishing she were here.”
It’s not a singular/plural issue: it’s the correct way of expressing the difference between what actually happened in the past; and a wished-for occurrence that hasn’t materialised.

“If only she was here now” vs. “If only she were here.” It may well be that she was here, e.g. yesterday; what you want is for her to be here now, but - alas - she isn’t.

Inelegantly phrased, but l hope it’s comprehensible.

maximus otter
 

EnolaGaia

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It’s not a singular/plural issue: it’s the correct way of expressing the difference between what actually happened in the past; and a wished-for occurrence that hasn’t materialised. ...
It's not limited to representing desired or wished-for situations. The subjunctive is more generally used to cue any counterfactual state or situation - e.g., following 'if' rather than 'if only'.
 
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