How do you feel about "momentarily"?

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How do you feel about "momentarily"?

Postby StringerBell » Fri Oct 19, 2018 3:51 am

I tend to use the word "momentarily" regularly, as in, "I'll be back momentarily" (with the meaning: soon, in a moment). Every time I say it, my husband, who is not a native English speaker, says that he hates that word because he associates it more with the other meaning, as in "I waited momentarily" (briefly, for a moment), and to him the meaning of the word is murky. He has been living in the U.S. for 10 years and his English is as good if not better than mine (he can just as easily watch The Wire or read through an English-language Neuroscience Journal) so it's not due to an incompetence with the language.

This is something I've honestly never thought about before he brought it up, that there are two subtle but very different meanings of this word. This word has always felt easy to use with either meaning. I wonder if the fact that I've never had an issue with it has to do with the fact I'm a native English speaker, or whether there is some other explanation.

Kind of a silly question, but I'm curious to know if you also have any issue with "momentarily" whether you are a native or non-native English speaker.
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Re: How do you feel about "momentarily"?

Postby smallwhite » Fri Oct 19, 2018 3:58 am

Wiktionary

https://en.m.wiktionary.org/wiki/momentarily

1. In a momentary manner; for a moment or instant.
2. (US, proscribed) In a moment or very soon; any minute now, any time now.
1880, Lew Wallace, Ben-Hur, a Tale of the Christ, chapter 3.
He told me, further, that the second coming was at hand--was looked for momentarily in Jerusalem.
This plane will be landing at Idlewild Airport momentarily.
3. Progressively; moment by moment.

Usage notes

Many speakers object to the use of momentarily in the sense of “in a moment” rather than “for a moment”, since this is inconsistent with the meaning of momentary;[1][2] nonetheless, this use is quite common in North America, and is particularly associated with airlines, such as “we will be landing momentarily”.[3][1][2] In place of momentarily, many speakers prefer the terms presently, soon[1][2] or the phrase “in a moment”,[2] for this sense of “in a moment”.
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Re: How do you feel about "momentarily"?

Postby rdearman » Fri Oct 19, 2018 10:28 am

I used to use it the American way, but don't do it any longer. Outside of the USA it confuses people because "I'll be back momentarily" would imply "I'll be back for a very short time". Which probably isn't what you mean.
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Re: How do you feel about "momentarily"?

Postby Morgana » Fri Oct 19, 2018 7:54 pm

I found the information smallwhite shared to be interesting. I hadn't realized that North Americans have made a different use for it.

StringerBell: I'm also a North American and have no trouble understanding what you mean when you say "I'll be back momentarily." In my own language learning I find adverbs to be particularly irritating because they can seem to mean totally different things in different contexts, and it takes some acceptance on the part of the learner that they (adverbs) won't always mean one thing or another, and sometimes even mean opposite things. It takes getting used to.
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Re: How do you feel about "momentarily"?

Postby StringerBell » Fri Oct 19, 2018 10:32 pm

rdearman wrote:I used to use it the American way, but don't do it any longer. Outside of the USA it confuses people because "I'll be back momentarily" would imply "I'll be back for a very short time". Which probably isn't what you mean.


Yes, that is exactly how he interprets that phrase, which is not at all my intention.
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Re: How do you feel about "momentarily"?

Postby Serpent » Sat Oct 20, 2018 1:21 am

StringerBell wrote:as in "I waited momentarily" (briefly, for a moment)
To me even that sounds strange. Maybe "I was forced to wait momentarily" sounds more natural.
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Re: How do you feel about "momentarily"?

Postby Ani » Sat Oct 20, 2018 3:27 am

My only objection is that sounds pretentious. Why use 5 syllables when 1-2 will suffice?
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Re: How do you feel about "momentarily"?

Postby StringerBell » Sat Oct 20, 2018 6:44 pm

Ani wrote:My only objection is that sounds pretentious. Why use 5 syllables when 1-2 will suffice?

Because it balances all my cursing :shock:

This thread will continue momentarily...
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Re: How do you feel about "momentarily"?

Postby NoManches » Sat Oct 20, 2018 8:20 pm

StringerBell wrote:
Ani wrote:My only objection is that sounds pretentious. Why use 5 syllables when 1-2 will suffice?

Because it balances all my cursing :shock:

This thread will continue momentarily...


Great response from Ani and great comeback from you StringerBell.


For me, I don't use that word because it's easier to say "I'll be right back" or "I'll be back in a minute (second)".

I've heard that the kids today don't even have time to anything other than BRB.
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