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I've found another difference between American English and British English.

I've just downloaded something from an American website and it said that "the download will start momentarily", meaning that it will start very soon.

In British English usage, "momentarily" means briefly or for a very short time - as in the sentence "the quiz contestant was momentarily stumped, but remembered the correct answer just in time".

This also applies to "presently". Americans use it to mean "now" whereas Brits mean "soon".
 
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The first definition of momentarily, given by the AHD is "For a moment or an instant." That's the definition I learned. However, the word has been corrupted, or has evolved, depending on your point of view, to mean "In a moment; very soon" (AHD's second definition). Fifty-nine percent of the AHD's Usage panel did not approve of the second definition.

An original meaning of presently, according to the AHD, was “at the present time; currently.” That meaning seemed to die out in literary language in the 17th century, but is now being revived.

Most, perhaps all, of the time when I use presently I mean "at the present time." I don't really know if I use it to mean "soon," though I recognize that definition. If I hear someone way "I'll be with you presently," I know the person means "soon," which may be a minute or an hour. But if someone says "He is presently the dean of ...," I know the meaning is "at the present time."

Both of these words include "Usage Notes." The first AHD, the 1969 edition, has no usage note for momentarily, but does have one for presently[/]i: "In modern usage [i]presently[/] is best restricted to [i]in a short time, a sense approved by 73 per cent of the Usage Panel. However, 49 per cent accept the earlier sense of at this time.

I noticed one thing that is unrelated to the meanings of these two words. In the 1969 quote above per cent was two words. In the current, online version, percent is one word.

The OED Online cites the "at any moment; soon" meaning of momentarily as "Chiefly N. Amer., and gives an 1869 quote: "A. J. WILSON Vashti xi. 149 Robert is bringing her home as carefully as possible, and you may expect them momentarily."

And from the OED Online
quote:
presently, adv.

At the present time; at this time, at present, now. Obs. (since 17th c.) in lit. Eng. (No certain instance in Shakes.) But in regular use in most Eng. dialects, and common in Sc. writers; revived in U.S. and to some extent in Great Britain in 20th c.

1485 CAXTON Chas. Gt. 50 Thou arte not presently in helthe of thy body.


Tinman
 
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The tv show Sports Night(Aaron Sorkin of West Wing fame), made use of the different definitions of momentarily for a hilarious bit done by Felicity Huffman.
 
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These American/British differences are interesting. We have discussed this one here, along with exotic-dancing and posting our photographs!
 
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I was flying to Los Angeles on United and one of the officers came on the P.A. and said something like, "We will be landing momentarily in Los Angeles".

I called the hostess and asked whether the 'plane would be staying long enough for me to get off, as I had an appointment in the City. I fear she didn't understand the joke. Had it been BA I feel sure she would have done.

In UK English "presently" means both "now" and "soon" although both uses are fairly informal - the latter especially so.


Richard English
 
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Most, perhaps all, of the time when I use presently I mean "at the present time." I don't really know if I use it to mean "soon," though I recognize that definition. If I hear someone way "I'll be with you presently," I know the person means "soon," which may be a minute or an hour. But if someone says "He is presently the dean of ...," I know the meaning is "at the present time."


Yes, I'd forgotten about that particular usage.
 
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quote:
Originally posted by Kalleh:
These American/British differences are interesting. We have discussed this one here, along with exotic-dancing and posting our photographs!


That was an extremely interesting thread Smile.

How do you post photos in these forums? Here is a link to an extremely flattering two year old photo of me (there's a full-length one further on in that thread which was taken when I went to Spain in February 2004). There are plenty in the thread that this one comes from. It was taken in February this year (2005) during my visit to Los Angeles and shows me with Kyle, a member of the How What Why Forums, who was one of my gallant volunteer chauffeurs for the duration (I can't drive) Smile. This is me with Joel (another of our Forums members). I stayed with him and his family. Joel and Kyle took me up Mount Wilson, just outside LA. We couldn't get all the way to the Observatory because of the snow blocking the road, but we got up high enough to get the breathtaking views of the mountains in the background.

This message has been edited. Last edited by: Dianthus,
 
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I called the hostess and asked whether the 'plane would be staying long enough for me to get off, as I had an appointment in the City


That was the gist of the joke on Sports Night too. After which, another character looks it up, and discovers both definitions work.
 
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How do you post photos in these forums?

2 ways. If you just want to show one or two that are already on the Web click the 'Image' button above the reply box and enter the URL.

If you want to post a whole gallery, it's probably easier to refer you to the forum's help. Click on 'Tools' > 'Help' and choose 'How to Post Photo Albums'.


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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Ah, so you can't embed a photo in these forums like you can in the others I belong to Frown. I'll probably have to start another webpage or something if I want to post photos here.
 
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quote:
Originally posted by Dianthus:
Ah, so you can't embed a photo in these forums like you can in the others I belong to Frown.
Eh? Confused

I've just told you how you can.


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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I called the hostess and asked whether the 'plane would be staying long enough for me to get off, as I had an appointment in the City. I fear she didn't understand the joke.

Would you call that a joke, though? It's rather subtle, to be honest.
 
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It's rather subtle, to be honest.

We have, I feel sure, discussed the American inability to understand some British humour. I feel sure our UK posters will have understood the joke perfectly.


Richard English
 
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yes, bit unfair to mock the afflicted though Razz
 
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Would you call that a joke, though? It's rather subtle, to be honest.


I say things just like Richard English did above all the time, and I am rarely understood. Perhaps I should move to Britain.
 
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quote:
quote:
It's rather subtle, to be honest.


We have, I feel sure, discussed the American inability to understand some British humour. I feel sure our UK posters will have understood the joke perfectly.


I think Kalleh was making a joke...
 
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Perhaps I should move to Britain.

I could show you some good pubs.

Of course, when you come here next October for the Wordcraft Convention, you'll be able to get to know the way we are.


Richard English
 
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Oh...yes, Sean, please join us. You, too, Neveu! The thread is in Community, and you can always PM Richard or me.
 
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