1. Dreek Lass
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    Dreek Lass New Member

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    While and Whist

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Dreek Lass, May 31, 2013.

    While and Whilst

    I consider myself a pretty good writer. I think that my punctuation can be great and that my grammar is also great, and to the point where I get annoyed when I read something - mostly fanfiction - and the grammar or formatting is off. It just ruins the entire fiction for me, and no matter how good or interesting the content is, I am just not able to read on further.

    But I am not perfect and still have a ways to go as far as my writing is concerned, which is why I want to ask: when do I use while over whilst, and when do I use whilst over while? I always seem to get the two mixed up, or I will just use whilst, because to my ears that sounds like the safest one in the context of the sentence that I am writing or typing out.
     
  2. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    A lot of people simply don't use "whilst" in writing or speech anymore, but I'm one of the few who keep it alive. It also depends where you're from: Britain tends to use "whilst" and America uses "while." Somebody may correct me, though. So in short, I usually use whatever sounds best in my head at the time.

    Hope that helped. :)
     
  3. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    I listened to music on my ipod whilst searching for my keys

    I listened to music on my ipod while I was searching for my keys

    Which sounds better?
     
  4. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Why is it we all stumble when it comes to thread titles? :D My spelling is pretty impeccable and yet I misspelt "folklore" into "forklore" - and now this thread! hehehe
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    if writing for US market, don't use 'whilst'...
     
  6. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi Mamma - why not?
     
  7. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Though it saddens me to say, I must concur if, as Maia stipulates, you are writing for a U.S. market. I once spent half an hour arguing with an A.D.A. as to my use of wherein, therein, and whence in the translation of a document. He thought they were made up words. A bloody Assistant U.S. Attorney. :confused:
     
  8. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    So whilst, wherein, therein, and whence don't appear in an American English dictionary?

    If they appeared between the covers of a book read by an American they'd think it was all made up? A new language? Really? They wouldn't accept it as British English?

    Are books often translated from British English to American English and vice versa?
     
  9. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    It's just not part of the common idiolect this side of the pond. We know the word and its corresponding syntactic structures, but using it comes across to an American ear as really precious and twee. (Yes, I know those words too.) ;)
     
  10. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Of course they show up in our dictionaries and educated Americans are more than well versed in their usage. But again, they are just not part of the common idiolect here. And the A.D.A. in question is as thick as two short planks, but he serves as an extreme example of why these words are not always the best choices for an American audience.
     
  11. Macaberz
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    Macaberz Pay it forward Contributor

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    Precious and twee, in short, British.
     
  12. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    No. Things that are British are not automatically precious and twee. An American putting on the airs of a Britannia to which he/she is not beholden, is. I use the word twee because there is no word in American English for this very universal concept. Whilst does not sound British to us. It just sounds like a word that is rarely ever used and calls undue attention to itself. It sounds out of place in the rhythm of daily discourse. It would fall into the same category for us as an unexpected thither in a perfectly modern piece.
     
  13. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi, dreek, I suspect that if you are asking the question, "whilst" is not really part of your normal lexis--so don't use it. I'm English, but "whilst" does seem slightly old-fashioned, although it doesn't bother me to see it used. I might have it in dialogue, if it suited the character.

    However, I cannot believe Americans don't understand what "whilst" means if they come across an English writer using it, and if we English have to put up with wierd usage like "in back" in books by American writers I don't see why Americans can't simply learn a new word and get over it. Anyway, I haven't noticed notable British writers tailoring their language to suit the US market, or good American writers forcing themselves to avoid US expressions for the UK market. Interestingly, many US words, like "pail" instead of "bucket" are more archaic than "whilst". I'm not sure why wrey says he thinks it doesn't seem British--it seems typically English to me.

    Just write good quality grammatical language that is in the style of your native tongue and live and let live.
     
  14. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I felt myself getting backed into the ethnocentric corner and ethnocentricity is not something I can abide. I didn't want to come across as if I were speaking disparagingly of my brothers and sisters across the pond. :redface::p And again, we do know the word whilst, just the same way we know the word lory and lift and bobby and fortnight. We know what all these words mean, we just don't use them. Brits know what a truck is in the U.S., but were you to use the word in the narrative of your Thatcher era, East End novel, it would stick out like a sore thumb, no?
     
  15. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I discovered the word "fortnight" in my high school era reading, and was always saddened that it does not enjoy usage here. I use it when speaking occasionally, but only with my wife, since she's the only person I know who understands what it means (she was a literature major).
     
  16. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    @ wreybies: As I said, I think writers should write in whatever is their natural native language, but e.g. an English writer might be trying to sell in the US rather than his/her home country, in which case I suppose it makes sense to make the language "suitable". Personally, I don't see why you would set out to write for a market outside your home country first--a genre writer might, maybe?

    edit: you don't say fortnight? How amazing.
     
  17. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    Woah woah woah, you don't use the word "fortnight"? What do you say then, "every two weeks", or what? I love learning new things about US and UK English. :p
     
  18. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    That is exactly what we would say. And under no circumstances would you ever hear one of us complain about being two stone overweight. We would say, "Damn! I need to loose, like, twenty-eight pounds." ;)
     
  19. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    Now that I know, as I like to watch football. Over here we use Kg, but I can't stand it, as I was brought up watching NFL! :D Soccer and rugby suck, btw; don't watch them.
     
  20. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Are you a unicorn? :confused::D
     
  21. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    Eh? :)
     
  22. cobaltblue
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    cobaltblue Member

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    I used 'whilst' in one of my MS's and my editor friend who proof read a chapter or two as a favour changed it to 'while' and I scratched my head trying to figure out why she did that. I hadn't considered it was simply because it is not a word used in America.

    Fortnight is a nice, useful word and should be used here more often.

    Precious and twee - I've never heard of twee!
     
  23. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    for the reasons given by wreybies...

    basically, because it's archaic and out of place in modern writing...
     
  24. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    whilst is archaic? hmmm..... twee isn't?

    28 pounds instead of 2 stone, is this for more impact, bigger is better (obviously not in this weight case)

    In Ireland we use English over Gaelige unfortunately but whilst would be considered quite poetic and we are famous for our storytelling so would never be out of place. Twee would never be used and fortnight very rarely. I think we'd rather use cupla weeks!
     
  25. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    While = whilst, both words have the same meaning. Whilst sounds old fashioned. If writing a dated piece,or in the dialogue of an aged person, then whist may be the better option - for modern day writing I'd use while.
     

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