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  1. #1
    ian2 is offline Member
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    Default sign of the times

    In a sign of the times, their most effective tool to spread their message was cell phone short messaging.

    To me, "a sign of the times" here refers to the effective tool or cell phone messaging, meaning trendy. But do you think the preposition here should be AS in stead of IN, or this is just an idiomatic way of using the phrase. I thought the idiomatic part doesn't include preposition, it's just "sign of the times", as is daily used in Nightline.

    Thanks.

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    Default Re: sign of the times

    The sentence is saying that cell phone messaging is trendy, yes, but that's not exactly the way "sign of the times" is used here. "The times" means everything, the state of the world at present. The sentence is saying something like, "Just as you might expect, given the way technology is racing along these days and young people are all plugged into their individual devices 24/7 and so forth, the advertisers found that their most effective marketing tool was cell phone short messaging, as opposed to older forms such as billboards or ads in magazines, radio, or television."

    And saying it in much fewer words!

    I don't watch Nightline, but "Sign of the Times" without any preposition could be the title of a feature: here is an example of yet another sign of our times.

    As vs. In: It seems to me that "in" was chosen here to indicate that cell phone messaging is in a group of many such observable signs of the times. "In a sign of the times" refers to the phenomenon of cell phones being effective in this way. You could say "As a sign of the times, we see companies using cell phone short messaging as an effective advertising tool," but that has a slightly different meaning: the usage of cell phones, and not their effectiveness, is "the sign of the times."

    But I hope somebody else will weigh in on this because I feel I have become entangled. :)

    [native speaker & writer, not a teacher]

  3. #3
    ian2 is offline Member
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    Default Re: sign of the times

    Quote Originally Posted by Delmobile View Post
    The sentence is saying that cell phone messaging is trendy, yes, but that's not exactly the way "sign of the times" is used here. "The times" means everything, the state of the world at present. The sentence is saying something like, "Just as you might expect, given the way technology is racing along these days and young people are all plugged into their individual devices 24/7 and so forth, the advertisers found that their most effective marketing tool was cell phone short messaging, as opposed to older forms such as billboards or ads in magazines, radio, or television."

    And saying it in much fewer words!

    I don't watch Nightline, but "Sign of the Times" without any preposition could be the title of a feature: here is an example of yet another sign of our times.

    As vs. In: It seems to me that "in" was chosen here to indicate that cell phone messaging is in a group of many such observable signs of the times. "In a sign of the times" refers to the phenomenon of cell phones being effective in this way. You could say "As a sign of the times, we see companies using cell phone short messaging as an effective advertising tool," but that has a slightly different meaning: the usage of cell phones, and not their effectiveness, is "the sign of the times."

    But I hope somebody else will weigh in on this because I feel I have become entangled. :)

    [native speaker & writer, not a teacher]
    Dear Delmobile,

    Thanks for your long detailed explanation. I read it twice, but didn't see the fundamental difference between you and me. It seems we both agree TRENDY (cell phone messaging) is the basic meaning here for a sign of the times. But you tried to distinguish between "in" and "as", and I didn't catch that. It seems you think "in" implies what is trendy is effectiveness, whereas "as" implies what is trendy is the cell phone messaging itself. Do you need a little more context? I try not to give too much context to people who are so busy everyday. (is it a sign of times?) Thanks again for your answer.

    By the way, you are right "A sign of the times" is a feature in Nightline. I still watch Nightline after Ted Kopple left. It seems the program is doing very well.

    Ian2

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    Default Re: sign of the times

    At this point, yes thanks, I'd be interested in seeing more context. There's not much difference between "In a sign of the times, their tool was cell phone messaging" and "As a sign of the times, their tool was cell phone messaging." But I do think there is, or should be, a subtle difference, and I'd like to try to wrestle it to the ground.

  5. #5
    ian2 is offline Member
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    Default Re: sign of the times

    Quote Originally Posted by Delmobile View Post
    At this point, yes thanks, I'd be interested in seeing more context. There's not much difference between "In a sign of the times, their tool was cell phone messaging" and "As a sign of the times, their tool was cell phone messaging." But I do think there is, or should be, a subtle difference, and I'd like to try to wrestle it to the ground.
    Thanks for taking time to read the stuff. I just like this forum where you can learn from people. I value your opinion. Here is the larger context:

    In a similar example of the marriage of new technology and citizen action, in late May angry residents in the southern coastal city of Xiamen launched a campaign to force the city government to stop construction on a large chemical plant on the outskirts of the city. In a sign of the times, their most effective tool to spread their message was cell phone short messaging. In a matter of days, hundreds of thousands of messages opposing the plant were forwarded, spreading like a virus throughout the country.

    By the way, when you said "I feel I have become entangled", I kind of agree. No offense.

  6. #6
    Barb_D's Avatar
    Barb_D is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: sign of the times

    Hi -
    I'd like to address the "sign of the times" not being the same a strendy.

    Something that is trendy is popular at that moment. A sign of the time gives an indication of the culture, the social or technical situation.

    Here's another example. Before the 1920s in the US, women always wore long skirts. At the same time that women gained more freedom to make their own decisions, hemlines starting creeping up. It was a sign of the times that women would wear short skirts out of the house - it indicated the shift in the culture. Any one particular skirt might be trendy or fashionable.

    Nowadays, when I see teenage girls wear tiny little slip dresses to church, I see it as a sign of the times that people don't feel a need to dress for church anymore. The actual dress could be in-fashion (trendy) or out-of-fashion but it doesn't change that it's a signal that things are different now then when I was growing up. (My mother would NEVER have let me where that to church.)

    [not a teacher]

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    Default Re: sign of the times

    I agree -- choosing to use that expression is a nod to general conditions, as well as a simple description of the trendiness of short messaging. And indeed, the several sentences you quote are describing how the new technology is being implemented in these modern times.

    Let's try "in" and "as" on something else.

    As a departure from tradition, Grandma cooked roast beef instead of the traditional Thanksgiving turkey.

    In a departure from tradition, Grandma cooked roast beef instead of the traditional Thanksgiving turkey.

    To me, the "as" sentence is focused more on this one individual choice Grandma has made, the roast beef. The "in" sentence focuses on the fact that she is defying tradition.

    But maybe I am losing my mind. You're darned right, I'm entangled :)

  8. #8
    ian2 is offline Member
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    Default Re: sign of the times

    Quote Originally Posted by Delmobile View Post
    I agree -- choosing to use that expression is a nod to general conditions, as well as a simple description of the trendiness of short messaging. And indeed, the several sentences you quote are describing how the new technology is being implemented in these modern times.

    Let's try "in" and "as" on something else.

    As a departure from tradition, Grandma cooked roast beef instead of the traditional Thanksgiving turkey.

    In a departure from tradition, Grandma cooked roast beef instead of the traditional Thanksgiving turkey.

    To me, the "as" sentence is focused more on this one individual choice Grandma has made, the roast beef. The "in" sentence focuses on the fact that she is defying tradition.

    But maybe I am losing my mind. You're darned right, I'm entangled :)
    Thank you both. I also agree with the Barb_D.
    As to the "in" and "as" , I think if we can pinpoint the accurate meanings of these two prepositions, the difference will be crystal clear. Your explanation is good, but I still feel a gap between the prepositions and the interpretation. So a little entangled myself. Let's wait for someone to talk about the prepositions.

  9. #9
    BobK's Avatar
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    Default Re: sign of the times

    Quote Originally Posted by Delmobile View Post
    ...

    As a departure from tradition, Grandma cooked roast beef instead of the traditional Thanksgiving turkey.

    In a departure from tradition, Grandma cooked roast beef instead of the traditional Thanksgiving turkey.

    To me, the "as" sentence is focused more on this one individual choice Grandma has made, the roast beef. The "in" sentence focuses on the fact that she is defying tradition.

    ...
    I agree. I think 'In' introduces an observation by the writer; it was a departure from tradition. 'As' introduces something intentional - as you said, a choice. The writer is doing a bit more than just observe - they are saying that Grandma made a decision.

    Reverting to the original, 'In a sign of the times' is an observation; the use of cell phones was a sign of the times. 'As' would be suitable if there was a decision, as in something like 'As a sign of our disgust at the increase, we will not buy any more'.

    So 'As a sign of the times they used cell-phones' would mean that they chose to use cell-phones as a deliberate demonstration of their new attitude; it's possible, but I think the 'In...' version is better in most contexts. Ask yourself, did they choose to use cell-phones to demonstrate something? (As I said, it's possible, but I don't think it's likely).

    Anyway, that's the way I see it.

    b

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    ian2 is offline Member
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    Smile Re: sign of the times

    Quote Originally Posted by BobK View Post
    I agree. I think 'In' introduces an observation by the writer; it was a departure from tradition. 'As' introduces something intentional - as you said, a choice. The writer is doing a bit more than just observe - they are saying that Grandma made a decision.

    Reverting to the original, 'In a sign of the times' is an observation; the use of cell phones was a sign of the times. 'As' would be suitable if there was a decision, as in something like 'As a sign of our disgust at the increase, we will not buy any more'.

    So 'As a sign of the times they used cell-phones' would mean that they chose to use cell-phones as a deliberate demonstration of their new attitude; it's possible, but I think the 'In...' version is better in most contexts. Ask yourself, did they choose to use cell-phones to demonstrate something? (As I said, it's possible, but I don't think it's likely).

    Anyway, that's the way I see it.

    b
    Thanks. I am no longer entangled. I knew where the problem was, but I didn't know the answer. Delmobile pointed out the right direction, but didn't get me totally out of the entanglement. To test whether I am truly out of the entanglement, let me paraphrase the original sentence:

    In a sign of the times, their most effective tool to spread their message was cell phone short messaging paraphrased as

    Their most effective tool to spread their message was cell phone short messaging, which is or shows a sign of the times.

    Am I really entanglement-free?

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