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You Will “Presently” Finish Reading This Post; “Presently,” You’re Done

The title is not my attempt to hypnotize you; rather, it’s to illustrate a point about the word presently.

Often, people say something like, “Presently, I am standing in the rain as I walk down Fifth Avenue.” Presently here means “at this moment” or “now.”

Many people object to using presently to mean “now.” These word snobs prefer the word to mean “in a little while” or “shortly.”

I admit to membership in the latter group, but upon checking my dictionary, I found this note:

“… many commentators have objected to sense 2 (“now”). Since this sense has been in continuous use since the 15th c(entury), it is not clear why it is objectionable. Perhaps a note in the Oxford English Dictionary (1909) that the sense has been obsolete since the 17th century in literary English is to blame.” (first two sets of parentheses added)

The note goes on to quote William Safire”  Presently meaning “now” is most common when referring to business and politics: “The fastest-rising welfare cost is Medicaid, presently paid by the states and cities.”

It appears presently can presently be used for all of its present meanings.

Until next time! Use the right words!



June 5, 2013 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , ,

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