Can ‘Momentarily’ Mean “In a Moment”?

Someone will use this word from time to time little while in the sense of “in a moment; soon.” Incidentally, sometimes that same person will also have a friend or colleague who wants to throw a copy of Body & White with them while shouting.

Coincident? Are not. Justifiable? Hey

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Photo: Peterspiro

Either way, the ship doesn’t move.

User little while means “in a moment” quite often, but we’ve noticed that quite a few people think this is against the rules.

little while first appeared in print at the end of the 16th century, and the original meaning of the word was “in a moment”.

….and therefore, it was impossible to foresee everything that could thus be turned against him, which was confirmed, but considering how temporary a town is compared to obtaining sources of income. daily input brings it, feel their lack, if vpon When the weather is favorable, or any other reason, they will come in two or three days, people tell of the difficulties that they suffer, many times over, for what they least think they should need.— Bernardino de Mendoza (translated by Edwarde Hoby Knight), Theory and practice of war1597

I am someone who momentarily expected his death, I took this letter from that person, found it on his Deske, and found it delivered directly to your Princess, I will burn it, lest it affect you any more.— Marcos Martínez, (trans unnamed.) The Eighth Book of Myrror of Knighthood1599

Although it appeared first, this meaning was not particularly common for the next few hundred years. In fact, the original meaning of little while not used until recently, a manual from the late 20th century (1985 Harper’s Dictionary of Contemporary Usage) asked the panelists “do you agree that this very old meaning is now showing new life and should be accepted as standard usage?” and only 60% of the council members allowed it.

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little while also take on a few additional, often uncriticized, meanings in this process (“immediately” and “at any time”). In the late 18th century, the often-criticized meaning (meaning “very soon; momentarily”) began to be used.

Their arrival was warmly expected, and momentarily expected.— The Universal Asylum and Columbian Magazine (Philadelphia, PA), February 1792

By a ship from Jamaica, to Norfolk, we know that five sails of the Channel Cleet have reached there, and seven more are scheduled for a moment with 7000 men.— Cobbett’s Annual Subscription (London, United Kingdom), February 27, 1802

I was starting to get tired of the warmly constructed jade, having come up with a new game and expected it to take down in a moment.— (Pseud.), The Life and Adventures of Obadiah Benjamin Franklin1818

The latest intelligence we received from headquarters, made General St. Martin and the Viceroy temporarily settle for peace or surrender, and we look forward to knowing the outcome of their conference for the time being, which will certainly favor neutral trade. may be available to interested parties.— Nashville Whig(Nashville, TN), October 31, 1821

So now we are finished with the two senses of little while used more often than before: “in a moment” and “in a moment.” The first of these was used frequently as many people began to use it in speech and writing. The second one seems to get a lot of mileage from people using it to explain why the previous feeling is wrong, as well as being the bane of people taking the subway (“The train is getting busted). pause for a moment…”).

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Many English adverbs that people use when they try to say “I’ll do it when I start doing it” are flexible in a similar way to little while. Present can be used to mean “soon” and “now” (although many manuals are cautious about the latter of these). Early once means “immediately”, then a bit lazy and is often used to mean “after lunch”. nameless follow a path similar to early did, and in a short time originally meant “in a few words” before meaning “soon”.

Both common senses or little while is valid, and contrary to the claims of some critics, there is very little ambiguity and the chance of your audience being confused is very small. When a pilot announces “We’ll take off in a moment”, it is generally understood that the plane will take off soon; No one responded to this statement by saying “Wait! Does that mean we’re leaving soon? Or shall we take off for a moment and then land again?” We’re pretty sure that air marshals don’t police teachers, but it’s best not to risk finding out.

Categories: Usage Notes

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