Stuff That Makes Me Crazy

Written By: Bill Quick - Nov• 23•12

Reference my previous post, in which I used the term “whiling away” – correctly, according to the usage dictionaries that cover the language in which I write, that is, English.

Now, illiterates given free passage to other people’s eyeballs and brains via the Internet have taken the ludicrous phrase “wile away” to heart, or some portion of their anatomy, even though the notion makes no sense whatsoever:

While away vs. wile away – Grammarist

The OED has instances of while away going back to the early 18th century. The phrase employs a now archaic sense of while—namely, to fill up the time. Today, while is used only as a noun or conjunction (except in while away). And because we’re not used to seeing while used as a verb, it’s easy to assume that wile away is the correct phrase.

But wile is mainly a noun—meaning (1) trickery, cunning; (2) a disarming or seductive manner; (3) or a trick intended to deceive—and it’s occasionally used as a verb meaning to influence by wile. None of these definitions has anything to do with idly passing time, so wile away doesn’t make logical sense.

Of course, the fact that something is entirely nonsensical (not to mention insane) makes no difference to the participants who have stormed through the old gatekeepers onto the digital drainage tubes.

Still, seeing some yokel use “wile away” still gives me a terrible case of itching teeth.

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Leave a Reply