7/10/2008

Whilst upgrading thy vocabulary, ditch 'amongst'


Here's an excerpt from an interview involving FOX News' Sean Hannity:

HANNITY: "First of all, how did the neighbors react to this? And it seemed like Gary just went out there amongst the Code Pinkers and shook their hands and even with a carnation on at 7 a.m.?"

This is when Mr. Rewrite outs himself as a language snob. He hates -- HATES -- references to amongst except when they make fun of the pretentious or our friends across the pond or both.

It's still in the dictionary, but thou shouldst avoideth amongst whilst assaying to shareth thy inspirations amidst the general populace. That is, amongst sounds archaic and pompous, at least in American English. It's the same story with whilst and amidst.

Each of Mr. Rewrite's usage guides frowns on amongst. Bryan A. Garner (cue angelic chorus) says, "In American English, it is pretentious at best." Paul Brians, who how merits his own angelic chorus, finds it less offensive, saying amongst is "has not dated nearly as badly as whilst," though it's less common than among in standard speech. Even Mr. Rewrite's guides to British English seem eager to bid cheerio to amongst, noting that it's rarely used today.

Mr. Rewrite has embedded Hannity's amongst above. It occurs with about 1:10 left in the interview. Mr. Rewrite isn't trying to pick on Mr. Hannity or FOX News; he just wants to embed some video rather than wasting time producing an imaginative graphic. Mr. Rewrite surely would drop things far worse if someone videotaped his every word.

That said, putting amongst in writing is a far different matter. Those paid to know better should avoid it, as their goal is conversational writing, but it shows up in thousands of U.S. news articles indexed by Google News.

Blimey!

1 comment:

Rhonda Weiss said...

Me thinks I agree with you entirely.