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A War of Words

Which is it – till, until, or that oddball ‘til? And how and why does it matter if its use is ignored by the best of writers as an abuse? Granted, when spoken it matters not a jot; when written, however, it matters a lot! Let’s resolve this anomaly here and now, without crushing verbal toes somehow. Early on,“until” had always been viewed as formal and therefore most often used. Likewise with the shorter “till”, though its age can be traced back farther in time and usage. Both can be used, however, so both are fine; though “until” is often used to start a line. As for “ ‘til,” and take note, it tries to get by as a contraction, at least to the eye. But the mind isn’t so easily fooled, especially if it’s been properly schooled. “‘Til” is an unfortunate amputation butchered by those with scant education, the “un” carelessly cut off and cleverly replaced by a surrogate apostrophe – and why? because it was thought ‘til was linguistically parented to “until” but this is now an unproven fallacy, conflating ignorance with illiteracy! Then, too, “‘til” has an age with a lack of hoary history and only goes back – believe it or not – to the early years of the last century when it first appears. The careful writer will continue to favor “till” and “until” and not share the error of “‘til” though now part of the language and with all the rights of literary usage; this despite the fact that dictionaries include it and approve its discrepancies. Still, there’s no substitute for good usage, Anyway it’s too late now, the damage has been irrevocably done. Finally, “‘til”, aesthetically, at least, looks ugly as hell.

Copyright © | Year Posted 2021

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