Tuesday, August 7, 2007

The (In)Famous "For a While"

No blog which deals with how the Philippines uses English will be complete without the expression, "for a while." Commonly used when answering the phone, I myself did not know there was something wrong with this expression until recently. In the first place, "while" can mean a "short amount of time," which is what the expression really means, literally, "wait a bit."

Purists of English, however, would say that this expression should not exist. Normally, "while" should come with some sort of modifier like, "stay a while," or "I'm using your pen for a while." If it's a question of telling a person to wait a bit, it's best to just say "hold a minute (if you're on the phone)" or "just a second" or "one moment please" or just be direct and say "give me five minutes to do this."

In the Philippines, "for a while" is very clear but if you're talking to a foreigner who is not familiar with the expression, you might get blank stares. As for me, I still find myself using it sometimes. That's the beauty of varieties of English: if you're talking to someone who uses English the same way you do, there's no real problem communicating.

1 comment:

Kakita Shirokawa said...

essentially, it's "sandali lang" transliterated, right?