Wednesday, April 23, 2008

New To Me: Momentarily

Just started listening to this week's podcast of Poli-Sci-Fi Radio. Host Bill Simmon said, while making last minute tweaks, that we'd be hearing the show in "just a moment." Not, he stressed, "momentarily."

Bill claims that momentarily means "for a moment," and not "in a moment." This drives him particularly batty on airplanes, when flight attendants say, "We'll be taking off momentarily."

This concern is not his alone, apparently.

Co-host Steve Benen cracked up (NB: laughed, didn't go crazy) and said in response, "That train has left the station," meaning enough people make this mistake that it's futile to insist upon correcting it. I sure didn't know that this usage was incorrect.

Ruh roh. Time to scour everything I've written on the Web?

This gripe of Bill's calls to mind hopefully, which used to mean only "filled with hoped," but has since become accepted, also, to mean "it is to be hoped" or "I hope." I think even Safire surrendered on this one, after fighting for the distinction most of his life.

I feel your pain, though, Bill.


jiminy jilliker said...

I, too, am a pedant. But I have been corrected for poor usage enough times to know that I am also an hypocrite. So be it. There are certain hobbyhorses that I will ride 'til I die.
For example, I will rail against the phrase "whole nother" as a stand-in for "whole other" forever. But I do recognize that it's an uphill climb and probably indicates many serious flaws in my personality.

Anonymous said...

This might be a good time to revisit the "I couldn't care less," issue.

On second thought, I could care less.

Anonymous said...

Is a busted football play one that has tits? On the other hand a burst football play sounds like a whole nother thing. Hopefully, it's OK that I snuck that one in the debate for those who wouldn't otherwise have snuck it in because they could care less.

Adam said...

Don't you crazy liberals all believe that language is a living, breathing thing and that the words literally change in meaning if enough idiots misuse them consistently enough?

Like nauseous in theory means something that induces nausea, whereas what we use nauseous for should actually be said or written as "nauseated." And you could continue on with other examples ad nauseum, but I'll spare you.

bjkeefe said...


I don't think you're flawed to have a pet peeve. I hear "whole 'nother" as a colloquialism that's acceptable in informal contexts. You're right that it makes no sense, but it has the property of sounding more emphatic, much like double negatives.




You don't accept "busted" as a synonym for "broken?"


Actually, language is something I'm pretty conservative about, I guess. I've softened my stance since I had an office mate who used to play the "it's a living language" card every time I would go off on one of these rants, and I now accept that "correct" definitions and usage are what most people say they are. But I do still fight the occasional holding action.

bjkeefe said...


As far as political affiliation goes, wouldn't an insistence on proper usage be a mark of elitism? Which, as we now are told, is the hallmark of a liberal?