Results 1 to 10 of 10
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • Canada
      • Current Location:
      • Canada

    • Join Date: Jan 2009
    • Posts: 902
    #1

    The matter of Whilst

    The word "whilst", if seen on Internet discussion groups, is enough almost surely to identify its user as an English person. In AmE it is a nineteenth-century feature that seems to have vanished at about the same time as "if I be".

    I know the standard manuals of usage, such as Fowler 2 ed., violently recommend against it in favour of "while", and the national English newspapers seem to blot it out from their articles. Still, I have formed the following strong impressions from indiscriminate reading:

    1. In the sense of "but" whilst/while is much more common in BrE than in AmE.

    2. "Whilst" seems a particular favourite of people who have a modicum but not an excess of education.

    3. "Whilst" seems to mean "but" more often than it means "when" or "during the same time as", for which the same person will often put "while". Is it true that this distinction is gaining strength?

    4. "Whilst" seems more of an English usage than, say, a Scottish, Irish, or Welsh one. Is it a regionalism within England?

    5. "Whilst" appears to be more common today than it was, say, a half-century ago.

    Is there any merit to any of the above? Am I totally off the wall?

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • United States
      • Current Location:
      • United States

    • Join Date: Jan 2008
    • Posts: 2,944
    #2

    Re: The matter of Whilst

    You said:

    5. "Whilst" appears to be more common today than it was, say, a half-century ago.

    How did you come to that conclusion?

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • Canada
      • Current Location:
      • Canada

    • Join Date: Jan 2009
    • Posts: 902
    #3

    Re: The matter of Whilst

    Quote Originally Posted by susiedqq View Post
    How did you come to that conclusion?
    Obviously the web deluge wasn't there then.

    As far as I can tell, none of the mid-twentieth century authors I've read used "whilst", I think, at least not in such a way that it immediately sprang to my attention. That includes, to the best of my recollection, Evelyn Waugh, George Orwell, and many others.

    On the other hand, I have seen "whilst" in lots of non-fiction, usually of the popular kind, and in some more recent literature. Ian Rankin and P.D. James come to mind.

    Perhaps the choice of spelling is really the publisher's. Mid-twentieth century English lit is easiest to find in Canada in Penguin editions.

    I know my supposition is quite shaky, and I'm sure it'll be immediately blown up in my face by counterexample, many counterexamples. Still, I have that impression: namely, that "whilst" as a simple "but" has become more common. Are any of my observations possibly correct? Does anyone know, or at least suspect the same thing?

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • UK
      • Current Location:
      • Laos

    • Join Date: Nov 2002
    • Posts: 57,903
    #4

    Re: The matter of Whilst

    2- I think that some BrE speakers use the word in an attempt to sound more formal and think it's somehow more intellectually heavyweight than while.

  1. Sensible's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • Australia
      • Current Location:
      • Thailand

    • Join Date: Jan 2009
    • Posts: 46
    #5

    Re: The matter of Whilst

    Whilst is a beautiful word. The superfluous 't' is yet to be lost in the evolution of English by speakers who fully appreciate the music of the language.

    'Amongst' also comes to mind but now we have a superfluous 's' as well.

    Usage. It is like adding a 7th to a D minor. Brilliant and worthwhile.

  2. bhaisahab's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • England
      • Current Location:
      • Ireland

    • Join Date: Apr 2008
    • Posts: 25,626
    #6

    Re: The matter of Whilst

    Quote Originally Posted by Sensible View Post
    Whilst is a beautiful word. The superfluous 't' is yet to be lost in the evolution of English by speakers who fully appreciate the music of the language.

    'Amongst' also comes to mind but now we have a superfluous 's' as well.

    Usage. It is like adding a 7th to a D minor. Brilliant and worthwhile.
    Good and interesting point.

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • United States
      • Current Location:
      • United States

    • Join Date: Jan 2008
    • Posts: 2,944
    #7

    Re: The matter of Whilst

    William F. Buckley is the last person I have ever heard use that word.
    But he died last year.

    It is not used in contemporary speech today.

    But, yes, it is a beautiful word.

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Russian
      • Home Country:
      • Russian Federation
      • Current Location:
      • Russian Federation

    • Join Date: Jan 2009
    • Posts: 222
    #8

    Re: The matter of Whilst

    Hello,

    Sorry for a digression from a main subject...I just wanted to know how do you usually pronounce "while", "whilst"? I've got an e-dictinary and there are two different transcriptions: [(h)wailz], [wailz] for "whilst" and [(h)wail], [wail] for "while". Built-in "pronouncer" (is it right word?) pronounces them [(h)wailz] and [(h)wail] (clearly pronounced "h").

    Thanks in advance.

  3. Sensible's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • Australia
      • Current Location:
      • Thailand

    • Join Date: Jan 2009
    • Posts: 46
    #9

    Re: The matter of Whilst

    Just say 'why' and add a significant 'L' sound on the end, as in 'all'.


    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • United States
      • Current Location:
      • United States

    • Join Date: Jan 2008
    • Posts: 2,944
    #10

    Re: The matter of Whilst

    wiel-st

Similar Threads

  1. no matter
    By Unregistered in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 27-Oct-2008, 07:53
  2. Don't matter
    By XINLAI-UE in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 11
    Last Post: 06-Aug-2008, 18:05
  3. no matter whether?
    By ohmyrichard in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 4
    Last Post: 13-Jul-2008, 07:32
  4. matter, subject, issue
    By jctgf in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 12-Apr-2008, 01:18
  5. what the matter is or what is the matter?
    By freddie in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: 18-Nov-2007, 07:24

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •