7.15.2008

You'll never see this in an American email

I saw this beginning of a sentence in a Brit's email, which I have never seen in an American one, and which I probably never will see: "Whilst I think of it..."

Americans NEVER use "whilst". That sounds like a very old word, and I seriously wonder when the last time that word was used in the good ol' US of A. Maybe it's never been used. It's just so different from what we say (we say "while").

Whilst sounds so fancy and formal, but it's used in everyday British English, I think, which makes it very interesting to see in an email.

9 comments:

Zerolove said...

I'm using my blog to practice using the English language. It is my first language I've just always been bad at it. My wife hounds me constantly about my grammar. I believe I will use the word whilst today.

Zero

Lilly said...

M, I love reading these funny little things that you notice and that you find a wee bit peculiar. If I do sit down and think about the English language, I guess I too would say that whilst has a more formal and old-fashioned sort of sound to it. Yet, I still use whilst on a regular basis when communicating in English. Especially in writing. How funny that you pick up on such things...and I never cease to be amazed at the huge number of differences between the English language used by Americans and Brits, respectively...and then I guess we've got even more different versions if we look closely at the Irish, the Scots, the Welsh, and the English...oh, and places like South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Canada...etc etc. There must be SO many different variations of this "one" language!

mj said...

Zero: you're probably the only American who is choosing to use "whilst" while I'm choosing to not use it. Unless I want to sound fancy and formal and different from my fellow countrymen.

Lilly: I pick up on such things because I don't speak or write British English, and won't have to unless I move over there. I know someone from college who moved to England and had to learn their way of writing. Meanwhile, I can relax :D

Lilly said...

I guess I do the same the other way around, though not a native speaker. However, I've lived in the UK for 5 years (England and Scotland) and am also married to a Scot, which has influenced my English a great deal.
During one of the first lessons at my university, those studying English were told to be consistent in their use of the English language; i.e., to choose either British OR American English in their writing, their pronunciation, choice of words, etc. You choose yourself but be consistent! Don't mix the two.

James said...

"Whilst" is right up there with "bloody" on the Anglicisms that sound inherently false on American lips, no matter what the context. It must be a colonial thing. I know the same applies for people who attempt to speak Castillian in Mexico. Lots of eye rolling ensues ;)

mj said...

If I heard an American use "whilst" or even write it, I'd wonder what was wrong and/or wonder why they're trying to be so pretentious. It is absolutely never used in American English. "Bloody" strikes me as someone who's a Brit/Australian wannabe, thogh it doesn't sound pretentious. "Bloody" isn't in American slang [yet].

mj said...

I forgot to respond to Lilly: I'd be interested in hearing your accent, since you're Danish, you lived in the UK, and you're married to a Scot, since their accent isn't the flattest I've ever heard :D

Jon Konrath said...

I used to see Whilst and some other odd Anglicisms when I worked for a company that outsourced email support to India. It's like the land where the Queen's English went to die - maybe they can't afford new books.

mj said...

Well if the Brits were there for so long, I doubt such usage will die out anytime soon.