Monday, November 18, 2013

2115 Presentiment

Sometimes the words they is slippery as a greased eel. Take the word presently. I don't mean take it in the future. I mean take it as an example. Many people use the word to be synonymous with currently. In fact, my Microsoft spellchecker synonym-finder suggests it exactly that way. So one couldn't be blamed for using it that way, could they?

Only by us persnickety grammar types. Because the correct use of the term is to mean in the future. I will be with you presently. As in, in a few moments. If you mean I am with you currently you say currently. Or "at present." 

Like in the recent voter's guide. In describing the changes in law certain initiatives would make, they used the phrase, "the law as it exists presently." 

To anal-retentive strict English usage folks, one cannot exist presently, as presently is in the future and, at least according to those pesky laws of the universe, we do not yet exist until we are in the now. 

In order to satisfy all of those potential voters, not just those who believe Microsoft grammarcheck, the phrase could have read, "the law as it exists currently" or "the law as it exists at present." I'm sure I'll hear from some of you presently, as every dictionary says that it's now perfectly acceptable to use presently as a synonym for currently. 

That die is cast, as it were. 

That's another slippery phrase. Does it mean die as in one of a pair of dice? So a die is thrown, never to be unthrown? Or does it mean die in the sense of a mold from which a thing is cast. Like diecast metal cars or toy soldiers? 

Either one indicates there is no going back. Presently. 

America, ya gotta love it. 

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