Use of the Word Whilst

loseyourname

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Use of the Word "Whilst"

I've noticed that people are using this word more and more frequently. I've especially noticed it on these forums. Is there any particular reason for this? It has exactly the same meaning as 'while' and no additional connotations. Furthermore, it is a much uglier sounding word and comes across as rather pretentious. For those of you using it all the time, why? Where is this coming from? I can't think of anything in recent pop culture that could have caused this.
 
It's hardly a new word. Middle English I think. I can't give you any authoratitive advise on when to use 'whilst' as opposed to 'while' but I'd say I'd use 'whilst' to mean 'although' or 'meanwhile', which 'while' can also be used for, but not 'at the same time as' which 'while' is used for.

e.g. "I am tall whilst my girlfriend is short."
"I did the vacuuming whilst my girlfriend cleaned the bathroom."
"I smoked a cigarette while vacuuming."
 
I think, in short, 'whilst' is only used as a connecting conjunction, whilst 'while' can also be used as a preposition.
 

Danger

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loseyourname said:
I can't think of anything in recent pop culture that could have caused this.
In my case it's because the environment that I live in and the people that I've been involved with have been heavily influenced by so many different cultures that we blend them all. A lot of old English, erse, gaelic, etc. get mixed into our everyday speech, along with the more official French and Brit slang. Although I try to keep my grammar more or less correct in PF, it's informal enough that I don't take time to filter the actual words.
 

loseyourname

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Oh, it is correct to use 'whilst' in any situation that you would use 'while' in. As I said, they have exactly the same meaning and exactly the same usages. If it's just commonly used in whatever part of Canada you're in (I can't remember it), that explains it. It just seemed to be getting more common to me. It seems like I've been seeing it everywhere recently and I never used to.

To the Hombre, 'whilst' has no additional connotation that implies the consequent clause is in opposition to the antecedent clause in your sentences. In those situations, 'although' or 'whereas' would be the best word to use. 'Yet' would suffice, but 'although' and 'whereas' are better.

All this said, the use of the word 'whilst' is not inaccurate, although it is archaic. It does originate from medieval English. Adding an "s" to the end of words in medieval English indicated an adverbial usage, and was added to the verb form of 'while' (meaning to spend time idly). The "t" is just epenthetic. Hard consonants were added to a lot of early English words in medieval times simply to better differentiate words from one another (early English kind of just flows into itself and can be very difficult to understand when spoken). So etymologically speaking, using 'whilst' to replace 'while' is technically incorrect, but it did become accepted long ago, kind of how 'normalcy' eventually became a real word thanks to Harding being an idiot and 'conversate' probably will now that so many public figures are (mis)using it.
 
loseyourname said:
To the Hombre, 'whilst' has no additional connotation that implies the consequent clause is in opposition to the antecedent clause in your sentences. In those situations, 'although' or 'whereas' would be the best word to use. 'Yet' would suffice, but 'although' and 'whereas' are better.
I couldn't agree less. 'While' also has these connotations, at least in England. Whether another word may 'suffice' or be 'better' is entirely irrelevant.
 
Another difference between 'whilst' and 'while': no-one ever says "worthwhilst" or "worth your whilst". I think 'while' in this case just means 'time' in general, which 'whilst' seemingly does not.
 

fuzzyfelt

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I think 'whilst' is really pretty common here, but so is ironic affectation.
 
In fact: <http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=while> [Broken]
Definitions of 'while' include: although, whereas.

Example: "My twin brother eats donuts for breakfast while I, on the other hand, eat them for lunch." Or whilst.
 
Last edited by a moderator:
If Cambridge don't know, who does? <http://dictionary.cambridge.org/results.asp?searchword=whilst&image.x=47&image.y=8>
 
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More generally here in the States, "Britspeak" is up --- I believe by an order of magnitude in newspapers and so on - over the last decade.

An informal study looked at the the frequency of words and phrases such as "queue," "whilst," "at the end of the day," "on holiday," and others - in newspaper reports. The rise in usage of such words and phrases was striking. i was unable to find a website for actual figures.

(But this is kind of fun: http://englishclub.8m.com/ukus1.htm)
 

Moonbear

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I think it's just a matter of personal taste. One person may find "whilst" to be ugly while another may find it more quaint, or fun to use. Since there's nothing wrong with either word choice, it could just be that as more people hear a different word used, they adopt it themselves just because it's different.
 

arildno

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Not having English as my native language, but having read quite a bit, I've always found the use "whilst" rather artificial and perplexing.
That is, I haven't really managed to find out where the proper usages of "whilst" should be; frankly, "whilst" to me sounds like unnecessary frillery or silly snobbishness.

Perhaps someone could enlighten me on when "whilst" is properly used, in particular when it is the ONLY correct word to use?
 
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I think i use it sometimes to make a major point while I using "while" the majority fo the time...i think its just a slur of the tongue/emotion
 

arildno

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So, you use it as an "emphasizing technique", then?
It would be interesting to see if native speakers are in agreement on these issues..
 

selfAdjoint

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arildno said:
So, you use it as an "emphasizing technique", then?
It would be interesting to see if native speakers are in agreement on these issues..
To me, an American speaker using whilst would sound pompously pseudo British, like spelling center "centre" in mall names. What is OK in the UK is not in the USA.
 

arildno

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selfAdjoint said:
To me, an American speaker using whilst would sound pompously pseudo British, like spelling center "centre" in mall names. What is OK in the UK is not in the USA.
Ok, that's important, thanks.

BTW, I think "centre" is a pompous and silly way of writing the word in the first place.
But, whenever were Brits anything else, really? :wink:
 
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whilst is from the middle english period... The fancinating thing about English is that, unlike most other langauges English does not have a body that governs what is an English word and what isnt... Unlike French or Italian, therefore English picks up lots of different localised words, that are absorbed into the "Cloud" of words that is English.

In the UK we have many many more dialects/lanaguages than in the USA so it is normal for Brits to have many different words that you would see in USA..

For Example, Scots, which is derived from old North English (and is a direct relation to fresian in The Netherlands) is now considered a seperate langauge to English (regonised by the EU)..

ayll be Pittin ma mither tung on the wab, ya ken?
 

arildno

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Anttech said:
ayll be Pittin ma mither tung on the wab, ya ken?
I like Scots. You have very practical clothes, for example.
 
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selfAdjoint said:
To me, an American speaker using whilst would sound pompously pseudo British, like spelling center "centre" in mall names. What is OK in the UK is not in the USA.
Friends don't let friends say whilst.

The people who bother me are the ones who never use it in everyday speech, but suddenly pull it out when they try their hand at verse.
 

arildno

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zoobyshoe said:
Friends don't let friends say whilst.

The people who bother me are the ones who never use it in everyday speech, but suddenly pull it out when they try their hand at verse.
Okay, so it DOES have this sort of snobbish, "literati" feel to it?
 
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Friends don't let friends say whilst.

The people who bother me are the ones who never use it in everyday speech, but suddenly pull it out when they try their hand at verse.
Well here whilst is fine to use
 
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arildno said:
Okay, so it DOES have this sort of snobbish, "literati" feel to it?
It isn't possible for an American to say it without sounding affected.
 
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Using whilst is just another way of peppering speech. I use whilst occasionally, but usually only at a Renaissance Faire. I hope I've been using the right form...

Also, is queue British? I've been using it for years because it appeared in a few of my games (though I'm sure I've got pronunciation wrong).

Also, I prefer Old English spellings, probably because I grew up in the Renaissance Faire and my mom prefers Old English (so I adopted a like of it).
 

Chi Meson

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Anttech brought up the Scots dialect; I learned to say "whilst" while growing up because of my Scottish mother. I was chided out of that as soon as I got to first grade. On a visit to Glasgow in the early eighties I saw a sign on a big truck (a "lorry," actually) "STAND CLEAR OF GATE WHILST TRUCK IN MOTION."

I agree with SelfAdjoint in that it is pompous when used by Americans. I just checked the OED, and each use of "whilst" is followed by the notation "=while", so there does not seem to be a condidtion where it is the only correct word to use.
 

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