I find the word "whilst" exceedingly annoying...

Ok, I’m Canadian. So, this may be an old problem-with-the-colonial-master thing, but I do find the word “whilst” more than a tad annoying and stilted. I think it should be reserved for the Queen and her immediate attendants, and maybe that Prince guy. This is not idiomatic English. I mean no offense to anyone, but I find the documentation to Scrivener peppered with the said expression to excess. Can I humbly (and with appropriate reverence for Keith) recommend the search and replace feature? The word is now “while” I believe. :mrgreen:

I don’t find it annoying, but it does sound anachronistic to me. I associate it with one thing and one thing only:

In the 1970s I was given as a novelty gift a telephone that had been installed on board a Cunard liner of the previous era: the CARONIA. In the center of the dial was a little sign, printed in red letters, that said:


The phone had a cloth cord and was constructed of ol’ skool molded bakelite. It weighed about 10 pounds. The word in question conjures up images of Cunard clients on holiday, steaming to Durban in the late 1950s, calling “anywhere in the world whilst at sea.”

Whilst I do agree with the concept, I wonder if we bemoan the the continued use of yester-year whilst our “modern advances” destroy the very things we hold dear.
Once, whilst the aged aged, they too moaned about the old whilst the new advanced.
Now they moan whilst their children’s children act too bold.
And whilst the net pervades every day and you plus tube rots the brain of the young, we scriven to keep a dying art alive whilst no one reads.
Be forewarned that whilst we strive for commonality our prose will only flourish whilst variety prevails.

I have now used whilst more times than permitted for a non royal.

I beg your pardon? I spent the past three years teaching primary children in a South-East London state school, and I had ten year-olds from working-class backgrounds who used the word “whilst” - not because I had taught it to them, but because it is idiomatic English, at least in England - which is where I am from. This has been picked up on elsewhere, and frankly, I find that sort of inverse snobbishness more than a tad annoying. This is how I speak and how I write (and I was educated at a comprehensive school, not some posh British public school), so whilst* I appreciate that you don’t mean offence (I hope my spelling of “offence” is not offensive to anyone :wink: ), I’m sure you can appreciate that you may have inadvertently caused some, just as, I wouldn’t doubt, I might cause you some offence should I start asking you to use British spelling, phrasings and colloquialisms on this forum rather than those natural to your own speech and writing patterns.


  • I didn’t even notice I had used this “whilst” until I re-read this, because “whilst” is not an affectation but a normal part of speech and writing for myself and many Brits.

I too am Canadian, but I also lived in the UK for a time, and I can offer testimony that it’s just a regional thing.

In Canada the word is never seen aside from the occasional 200-year-old inscription on some impressive-looking building. In Britain it’s everywhere from adverts to toaster manuals to the drunken mumblings of undergrads. I certainly noticed the difference, but I found it rather endearingly amusing.

I am sure (hopeful?) that the original poster meant no offence. Just chafing under the yoke and all that. Canadians are genuinely worried about having Charles on our notes, you know :wink:

Incidentally, we use British/Canadian spelling in Canada, so I promise we won’t complain about that!

(Edited to add: In the UK, a “state school” is what Americans/Canadians would call a public school, and a “public school” is what Americans/Canadians would call a private school. Just wanted to clarify, in case anyone was confused by that bit in KB’s post. In North America a “posh public school” would be a bit of an oxymoron.)

I don’t like the word flautist.

I’m not big on the idea of having Charles on our notes, either. :slight_smile: There seems to be a misconception that all Brits are upper-class twits who love the monarchy (not helped by Hugh Grant in leading roles). Whereas in reality, of course, it wasn’t just the “Empire” outside of Britain that had to endure the rule of the British aristocracy, drinking tea and acting superior, but also the majority of the British population. (I have not the words to describe my disgust at Boris Johnson becoming Mayor of London; it is only slightly less than the disgust I felt towards the tweed-suited twits who rode a London underground train I was on a few years ago after they had finished their countryside-alliance march demanding their God-given rights to have their dogs chase and tear apart foxes - their loud high-nostrilled voices trilled on and on about how they were slumming it on this quaint “tube” thing; to this day I have no idea how it was that they even survived the journey.) As you say, “whilst” is common here (more in written than in spoken English). It may be becoming less popular (having just looked it up following this thread it seems that the Times and Guardian style guides require “while” rather than “whilst” these days), but I don’t really feel like retraining and editing myself just because a natural part of my language is found to be annoying by somebody who uses a different variation of that language… It would be as presumptuous as me writing to any US company and telling them that I find their spelling of “color” annoying and asking them to replace it with “colour”, or demanding that French people refrain from using “homage” or Italians from using “al dente”, because such terms are clearly pretentious (when used in English, in my putative opinion).

I’m at the tail end of my SF trip and knackered (I’m going all out for British colloquialisms now :slight_smile: ), so I may be grumpy and not exactly vim and vigour at the moment, but I still think the op is bang out of order, 'guv.

All the best,

Heh heh. We like to annoy further by confusing the issue. :slight_smile:

Right. So now you want me to go through the Help file and remove every reference to flautists, huh? HUH?

Down with flautists! And Hugh Grant. I dislike that man more than should be possible, given that I have never met him.

May various deities help us all if Hugh Grant is ever cast as a foppish, boyishly charming flautist.

But flutist I like.

Whilst flutist I like. :stuck_out_tongue:

Whilst I, too prefere “colour” over “color” (if only because it is a bit longer; I like long words - do you know the German “Donaudampfschiffahrtskapitänspatentanwärterscheinedruckereidirektorenschubladeneinlage”?) you should really get to know the kind of English taught at German universities.
Whilst I am learning British English (including the wonderful RP pronunciation, to this day I have never met any Brits speaking like this…), usually you learn a kind of mixture here. It is really, really disgusting. Spelling constantly changes between British and American, which is severed by American english used in advertising.
Due to reasons unknown to me, Germans somehow like to use English all the time - which usually goes in hand with the most severe crimes on English and German grammar.
So believe me… whilst is probably the tiniest problem you may encounter when dealing with English… at least here.
By the way: I like whilst :slight_smile:

You know which word I hate? Utilize. It’s like the speaker isn’t confident we’d be sufficiently impressed if he only used a thing. “Oh, you utilized it. Well that’s much more thorough.”

I’m a copywriter ('cause that pays for the novel-writing), and I find that corporate people fall into this trap of linguistic over-reaching when they’re not confident about the substance of what they’re saying. It’s like a lie-detector test. “This new form should be utilized and all arising questions directed to myself.” Ouch.

Come on holiday to Xiamen, and I can guarantee you’ll meet one. :wink:


The one that sets my teeth on edge to the greatest degree is expiration as found on web sites asking for credit card information. Sorry, cousins across the pond, but I am a Brit, though unlike the eminent KB, I did have to suffer the indignities of an, albeit very minor, public school.



What about transpire and exacerbate?

To quote Keith, “Huh? HUH?”

I should add here, in case my previous hasty remarks about “posh public schools” came across as inverted snobbishness towards such institutions on my part, that now I’m actually at a stage in life where it may be possible, I’m considering sending my own kids to such a place. It may never happen, and it galls me too given that I’ve spent the last ten years mocking my wife-to-be for being a hoity-toity privately educated type. :slight_smile:

All the best,

I’ve been married seventeen years, KB, and I must advise you: DO NOT MOCK THE WIFE-TO-BE!

For any reason. You will regret it whilst ( :mrgreen: ) you comtemplate your shame one day. Make her laugh, to be sure, but no mockery.

I like “whilst” and there is nothing old fashioned about it. It is in widespread use in the UK.

I do like “methinks” a lot and use it myself. Unlike “whilst”, “methinks” is considered old English. I’m a sort of one man campaign to rehabilitate “methinks”.

And I’ve been on a one woman crusade to rehabilitate, connexion, into standard parlance! It’s such a pity to lose any spelling variant that includes the letter ‘x’.