momentarily/shortly
Posted: 31 May 2007 08:07 AM   [ Ignore ]
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This has probably been asked before on the old bawd so Search shows nothing. Nevertheless.

I have heard American TV people say “We will be back momentarily” meaning “in a moment”. In the UK we would say “shortly”. Momentarily would mean “for a short time” in the UK with the implication of moving swiftly on to something else. “He was momentarily confused” etc.

In the States is this an instance of the meaning evolving or is it just a solecism? cf. enormity and fulsome.

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Posted: 31 May 2007 08:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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The “in a moment” meaning is well established in the US, and cited in the OED back to 1869 [the entry has been updated since the RH Maven wrote the passage aldi quotes, dating it to 1928].  We also use “presently” to mean “at present” rather than “soon”.

[ Edited: 31 May 2007 08:45 AM by Dr. Techie ]
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Posted: 31 May 2007 08:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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The link between my library and the OED is down for a few days while they sort out some ‘problems’ (I feel as if I’ve lost my right arm), but there is a useful piece on Random House’s Maven’s Word of the Day, from which I extract:

As you went on to point out in your e-mail to us, the sentence “the doctor will be with you momentarily” would be taken by a British English speaker to mean a very short consultation indeed. In fact, the meaning ‘only for a moment’ is the oldest, from the 16th century, and the meaning ‘in a moment’ is labeled “North American” in the OED, with a first citation from 1928. However, a sentence such as “Blake was momentarily distracted, and his car slid off the road” still reflects a common, recognized use in the US--in fact, it is arguably still the most common. This ‘for a moment’ meaning is also the most common in Canada, by the way, although the ‘in a moment’ meaning is used and recognized.

Actually, I’m not quite convinced that using momentarily for ‘in a moment’ is entirely original to North America. There is another late 18th-century meaning, ‘from moment to moment’, that is recorded on both sides of the Atlantic in the 19th century. The treatment of this meaning in various dictionaries shows how fluid the meanings are. The OED chooses a clear example of ‘from moment to moment’ to illustrate its meaning: “The light was momentarily getting worse.” However, Merriam-Webster’s Third International Dictionary lumps together the meanings (’at any moment; from moment to moment’) and cites the decidedly un-American, un-20th-century Charlotte Brontë: “...momentarily expected his coming.” The Century Dictionary (1899) lists the definition “From moment to moment: as, he is momentarily expected” yet gives the example sentence “Why endow the vegetable bird with wings, which nature has made momentarily dependent upon the soil?” (Why indeed? Leave those vegetable birds on the ground where God put ‘em.)

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Posted: 31 May 2007 08:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Just seen Doc’s post. 1859 and 1928! That’s some discrepancy. Either there’s been a huge antedate or RH have their facts wrong.

And now I’ve seen his edit. All is clear.

(I hate the fact that one cannot see current posts below the Reply Box, as one could with Ezboard. Far easier to keep track of new posts.)

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Posted: 31 May 2007 09:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Having always been of the opinion, that the “now” meaning of “presently” was how Shakespeare used it and therefore the US usage was yet another example of an archaism in British English surviving the other side of the Atlantic, I thought to check in the OED, where I found that Shakespeare is quoted as using the modern British usage of the word.  I suppose too many people used “presently” intending to convey the meaning “now”, when what it turned out to mean was “soon”.

Here in Pembrokeshire, we have another example of this drift in meaning: “now” doesn’t mean “at once”, it, too means “soon”, as in “I’ll be with you now, in five minutes” (actually said to me in a cafe).

I can’t see how “momentarily” went from meaning “for a moment” to “in a moment”.  Perhaps it was affected by “instantly”.

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Posted: 31 May 2007 10:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Using this site to bring up 142 instances of Shakespeare using the word Searchable Shakespeare
I _think_ he uses it both ways, but I may be misinterpreting.  What do you think?

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Posted: 31 May 2007 12:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Using this site to bring up 142 instances of Shakespeare using the word

Which word? Momentarily gets no hits. Momentary gets 6.  Moment gets 33.

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Posted: 31 May 2007 01:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Which word?


Presently
, Shakespeare’s use of which bayard had just commented on.

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Posted: 01 June 2007 05:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Thanks Doc.  Readin’ too fast.

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