Friday, February 10, 2012

2012.02.10 — Whilst from on High, all is nigh a fushigi

Today, at my place of work where sometimes work gets done beneath the reign of e.mails, I paused to read my leader's high praise for the team having accomplished great things. I rarely read this executive's e.missives because they are generally bombastic and self-serving verbal spews I find hard to digest. But every once and a while, two or three times a year I guess, I pause from my work — maybe because I was bored and just not into it — to wend my way through one to see if anything has changed.

It began typically enough, but when I read '[blah, blah, blah] team, [blah, blah, blah]… whilst [blah, blah, blah] team … [blah, blah, blah],' I found my self unable to refrain from vocalizing my brain's 'OMG? Who uses 'whilst' in an official business announcement?!' [I've not copied the e.mail's text, here, in order to avoid creating the false impression of having violated some kind of business ethic.]

From the pod across from me RT popped up and said '[The CEO] uses that word a lot. And it always kind of bugs me, but I don't know why. Why does it bug you?' I said something like it is an old word and may be at best used in a kind of odd literary way to emphasize something or in an effort to be poetical. It is not used in so-called proper writing anymore, and especially not within an official business context.

We ended the discussion shortly after some additional discussion about the peculiar structure of the balance of the paragraph as to the use of pronouns and the 'team concept'.

That afternoon, for the first time in ten years of working together, TK sent me a query/comment regarding our executive's e.missive:
I’m not sure if you read these offerings, these writings that come down to us from on high. Yes, I mean those written by the leader of our fine company, [the CEO]. When I read them, I become distracted and amused by our friend’s overuse of the word “whilst”. [The CEO] never uses the much more mainstream and acceptable “while” where a good “whilst” will do.

It has always rubbed me the wrong way, and now I know why, thanks to Wikipedia. I find it especially ironic that “whilst” is considered archaic outside of the UK. In Canadian and American English, it “could be considered pretentious or archaic”. Perhaps someone told [the CEO] once that [leaders] would sound smarter whilst using the word “whilst” in their messages? Now it’s become the literary equivalent of an ear-worm for me.

I just had to point it out to you; it’s my Friday afternoon mood. Sorry if it now becomes your obsession. Cheers, and have a great weekend whilst you take a break from this crazy place! ;^)
And to cap of the fushigi-ness of this event, TK copied it to my confidant, RT.


  1. " 'OMG? Who uses 'whilst' in an official business announcement?! "

    I was thinking the same thing....

    Whilst is horrible on the eyes and ears, yes? Ah, well. I guess we're all guilty of using a certain word like "whilst"!

    1. My CEO uses this a lot. The nature of the organization is such that the fact that no one has had the courage to advise him of it's being inappropriate is a telling comment on this particular corporation. Sad and funny at the same time.