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Moment
Posted: 02 October 2007 10:51 AM   [ Ignore ]
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One of my less favourite expressions is “at this moment in time”.  Is there the slightest etymological excuse for this otiose construction?  Have you ever been able to have a “moment” that wasn’t “in time”? (Apart from its use in mechanics and allied subjects)

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Posted: 02 October 2007 11:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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"At this moment” means right now.

“At this moment in time” means generally now considered in the expanse of time and it implies a possible different situation in the past or future.

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Posted: 02 October 2007 02:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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II would suggest two other possibilities:

1) There is no difference, except the “moment in time” form is redundant.

2) The redundant “moment in time” emphasizes the transitory nature of the situation. Both are transitory, but the “moment in time” form emphasizes this.

3) (Happydog’s explanation) The first refers to precisely this second. The situation can change at any moment. “Moment in time,” however, takes a longer view. The situation will likely change, but at some imprecise time in the future and not in the immediate future.

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Posted: 02 October 2007 03:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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My first thought is that it is grating and is one of those phrases when it’s best to think of another way of saying what one means. My second thought is that maybe this form came about to make the distinction (awkwardly) that “now” is what is meant as opposed to the many ways “moment” is used in physics.

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Posted: 03 October 2007 12:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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What I was wondering was whether “moment” has ever meant a small piece of something other than time.  Etymonline gives “Some (but not O.E.D.) explain the sense evolution of the L. word by notion of a particle so small it would just “move” the pointer of a scale, which led to the transf. sense of “minute time division."” but no citations of a non-"time" use for this meaning.

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Posted: 03 October 2007 05:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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The first time I ever came across an expression like that was when reading about the Watergate trial and hearings. One of those White House staffers would say “at this point in time” every time he meant “now”. I think it was meant to be a rather feeble attempt at prevarication (there was a whole lot of that during those testimonies, I recall). Whenever I hear “at this point in time” or “at this moment in time”, my first thought is “either that SOB is trying to avoid saying something, or he;s getting paid by the word, or he just hates to hear himself stop talking”. The afterthought is, of course: “I’d not be surprised to learn that he’s a lawyer”.

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Posted: 03 October 2007 07:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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What I was wondering was whether “moment” has ever meant a small piece of something other than time.

Yes

OED online:

3. †a. A small particle, a minute part. Also fig.: a tiny detail. Obs.
1594 T. BLUNDEVILLE Exercises (1636) III. I. xvii. 316 For to every severall place, yea to every little moment of the earth in an oblique Spheare, belongeth his proper Horizon. 1638 F. DU JON Painting of Ancients 77 Examining therein every little moment of Art with such infatigable..care that it is easie to be perceived they do not acknowledg any greater pleasure. 1642 H. MORE Song of Soul I. Ep. to Rdr. (note) This opinion, though it have its moments of reason, yet [etc.]. 1691 J. NORRIS Pract. Disc. 23 One of the Scales may and will receive some moments of Advantage more than the other. 1753 S. RICHARDSON Hist. Sir Charles Grandison VI. xvi. 58 Be good, and write me every-thing how and about it; and write to the moment: You cannot be too minute.

“Moment of time” is cited from the 15th century, and the equivalent momentum temporis occurs in classical Latin, acc. to the notes in the OED entry.

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Posted: 03 October 2007 03:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Buddhists call a moment not in time the “fourth moment” (neither past, present nor future)—an experience of the world as it is, before memory.  But I don’t think that that is what people who use this phrase are thinking of.

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Posted: 03 October 2007 04:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Like Lionello, I connect the phrase with the Watergate hearings, or at least that was the first time I noticed it. And it is generally just playing for time.

When I was accused of distributing subversive leaflets in East Germany, I was told to hand them all in to the proper authorities im Laufe des heutigen Tages — literally, ‘in the course of the todayish day’. Which seemed excessively redundant, though I was told by a native speaker that it made the command less peremptory than Heute, ‘today’, would have been.

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Posted: 03 October 2007 10:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Dr. Techie - 03 October 2007 07:17 AM

“Moment of time” is cited from the 15th century, and the equivalent momentum temporis occurs in classical Latin, acc. to the notes in the OED entry.

It appears, then, that “at this moment in time” could have derived from “at this moment of time” round about the time of the Watergate affair, or it could have been a new coining.  Any citations for “moment in time” in the OED?

I still think, like others, it sounds like waffle, even if it does have a sort of bastard pedigree dating back 600 years.

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Posted: 04 October 2007 02:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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If it was used to refer to some time in the past as the speaker was relating some incident in the Watergate affair, to have said “at this time” could too easily have seemed to mean “right now, as I am relating this information to you.” Perhaps “at that time” would have been a better choice, but one doesn’t always do a lot of editing when one is answering questions, the exact nature of which is unexpected.

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Posted: 04 October 2007 05:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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I don’t really understand the common reaction that one should strive to speak as concisely as possible, eliminating all unnecessary words, as if language were pure logic and words cost money.  One of the great pleasures of language is its variety and redundancy, and I don’t think Rabelais or Faulkner would be improved by paring their sentences down to the minimum necessary to convey literal meaning.  I realize “at this moment in time” isn’t a masterpiece of rhetoric, but it just strikes me as one of zillions of similar mildly redundant phrases people have filled the pauses in their thinking with from time immemorial (oops, look at me wasting syllables when I could have said “for a long time” or just added “long” before “filled”—tsk!).  The problem with the Watergate conspirators was their criminality, not their use of language, and no, I don’t think the two are somehow connected.  (Same goes for Bush and “nucular,” which is a perfectly unexceptionable pronunciation that some people react to with inexplicable revulsion.)

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Posted: 04 October 2007 06:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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What Languagehat said.

And I’d add that this moment in time often appears when the person wants to speak in an official, legalistic, or bureaucratic manner. It’s one of those locutions used when adopting a particular register of voice.

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Posted: 04 October 2007 10:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Dave Wilton - 04 October 2007 06:06 AM

And I’d add that this moment in time often appears when the person wants to speak in an official, legalistic, or bureaucratic manner. It’s one of those locutions used when adopting a particular register of voice.

Which, now you point it out, is precisely why I don’t like it.

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Posted: 08 October 2007 08:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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I had a thick high school teacher who would often say ‘at this present moment in time’ and ‘in actual point of fact’.

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Posted: 12 October 2007 01:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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’At this moment in time’ could be rendered as ‘momentarily’ in Leftpondia (though not in Rightpondia) couldn’t it?

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