- For Teachers
Is the phrase like "come December (May, June etc.)" correct? Can it be used, say, by a lecturer at university when talking to students? Or does it sound very informal?
She'll have been living in the US for 19 years come December.
NOT A TEACHER
(1) I notice that you fear that your sentence may seem "informal."
(2) In my opinion, I think that many people (especially young
people at American universities) would feel that it was formal.
After all, it is the subjunctive, and most people feel the subjunctive
is formal. Hopefully, most young people say "If I WERE the president,
...," but no doubt many feel that "If I WAS the president ..." is just
fine and dandy.
(3) According to one of my favorite books, A Grammar of the English
Language by Professor George O. Curme (which was written in 1931 --
a fact that I am proud to announce),
"She will be eighteen years old come Easter" = when Easter shall
come, i.e., Let Easter come.
(4) And according to the revered Mr. Henry W. Fowler in his A
Dictionary of Modern English Usage, that kind of sentence was already
considered old-fashioned or even pretentious in Mr. Fowler's time (he
wrote his beloved book in the 1920's!!!).
(5) The bottom line:
Although I have not been in a university classroom since the 1950's (!!!),
I think that I am on good grounds to state that expressions such as
"Come December" [which I personally love] will not be greeted by most
American college students with much enthusiasm. They might even think
that you are trying to be a snob, i.e., that you want to flaunt your
knowledge of elegant English. I think that you would be safer just saying
in plain English: By December, she'll have been living in the U.S.A. for 19
Thank you. I just wanted to learn a "new" English phrase, but now I see that I'd better not.
When something becomes old-fashioned, fashion varies from place to place. And in Liverpool in the 1960s it was considered informa; enough to be used in the title of a popular song - 'Come tomorrow' (I'd guess it was sung by Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas. They may have been covering an older song, but still - even if that is the case - a large number of teenagers bought it).
PS No, it was Mamfred Mann (not from Liverpool). All the same....
Last edited by BobK; 06-Jun-2011 at 20:01. Reason: Added PS
Typo (due to assimilation from the 'Mann'? - or maybe just proximity on keyboard).
Perhaps we should contact Paul Jones to settle the issue once and for all...