on line

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on line

Post by Archived Topic » Tue May 25, 2004 8:39 pm

Note that this question has nothing to do with the Internet. Ask anyone who grew up in New York City and who hasn't had the benefit of moving away or being reeducated, and they will tell you that people stand "on line" and not "in line" in that town. I was totally unaware of this distinction until I moved away and it was pointed out to me that I talked funny - I'm afraid that it was much more than just this one expression that gave me away. To this day I can immediately detect that an unsuspecting and otherwise unaccented newsperson is revealing their roots when they say that "hundreds of people stood on line in the rain waiting to purchase tickets." I have never heard this expression used by any English-speaking person other than one who was raised in New York City, and I have traveled widely and been listening carefully for many years. Does anyone know the origin of this anomaly? Is it possibly a vestige of a grammatical form of the language of one of the many waves of immigrants that populated NYC, and if it is, how is it that NYC is the only town so infected?

Ken Greenwald (Fort Collins, Colorado - U.S.A.)

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on line

Post by Archived Reply » Tue May 25, 2004 8:53 pm

See The Word Detective at
http://www.word-detective.com/back-m.html#online
and
http://www.word-detective.com/back-u.html#inline
Jan 24, 2002

Reply from Susumu Enomoto (Shiraokamachi - Japan)
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on line

Post by Archived Reply » Tue May 25, 2004 9:08 pm

I tried those links, Susumu, and they were informative. But I was wondering if the "on line" in any way relates to the expression used by the British (and maybe Canadians--Ian?), "standing on queue." Maybe New Yorkers "Americanized" the expression by changing "queue" to "line," but left the "on" alone? Any thoughts?

Jan. 23, 2002
Reply from K Allen Griffy (Springfield, IL - U.S.A.)
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on line

Post by Archived Reply » Tue May 25, 2004 9:22 pm

Hmm... We Britons would normally speak of 'standing/waiting in line', 'queuing', or 'standing/waiting in (a) queue'.
Reply from Erik Kowal ( - England)
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on line

Post by Archived Reply » Tue May 25, 2004 9:37 pm

The only "on queue" I know is "on cue" as for example in the theatre.
Reply from Melvyn Goodman (London - England)
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on line

Post by Archived Reply » Tue May 25, 2004 9:51 pm

In Canada we don't use queue often. I have usually heard it from Britons. There are communities in Canada that do still use an English that is closer to the British and it may be more common in those locations.
In computing terms a queue is used to describe a line up of jobs, most notably your print queue which will process your output in the sequence assigned. Although I haven't confirmed this, I believe it is reserved for processes that are considered background tasks.
As for 'on line' this is a first that I have heard it used this way.
Interesting note, on-line originally meant to be directly controlled or connected to the CPU, not connected to the Internet.
Reply from Ian Patrick (Ottawa - Canada)
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on line

Post by Archived Reply » Tue May 25, 2004 10:05 pm

OK, maybe I have misheard British say "in queue" and just thought they were saying "on queue." I can't remember where I've heard it (probably some Brit-com on PBS), so I don't know which was said.

And Ian is right about the term "print queue." That's about the only time you hear the word "queue" in American English.

Jan. 24, 2002
Reply from K Allen Griffy (Springfield, IL - U.S.A.)
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Re: on line

Post by Ken Greenwald » Thu Aug 30, 2012 1:51 am

aaa
I was just reading an article titled ‘Super Humanity: our drive to exceed our limits sets us apart from other beasts,’ when I came across the following:
<2012 “We encounter more people standing on line for Space Mountain at Disneyland than our ancestors [[prehistoric]] encountered in a lifetime.”—Scientific American, September, page 42>
The author of the article is Robert M. Sapolsky, a professor of biology and neurology at Stanford University. And I’ll give you three guesses as to where he was brought up, and don’t tell me it was in just any old large U.S. city. He had to have been raised in New York City. And, in fact, just for the hell of it I checked his bio in (or is it on?) Wikipedia and he was born, in of all places, Brooklyn, New York.

So, I disagree with Evan Morris, the Word Detective, who said (see Susumu’s above link):
. . . my sense is that the “on line” locution is primarily heard in large cities. It may, in fact, have started in New York City, since the majority of questions I have received on this topic have come from visitors to New York who were struck by the usage.
I say, not only did it start in New York City, but that is the only city in which it is used by natives. I have lived in and spent time in many large and small cities across the U.S. and New York is the only city I have heard, or heard of, it being used. And if anyone knows of another city in which they think it is used, I’d like to hear about it.
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Ken – August 29, 2012 (Who’s right because he says so!)
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Re: on line

Post by Shelley » Thu Aug 30, 2012 7:46 pm

Right on, Ken. To add: in NYC a person can say, "Are you in line?" or "Are you on line?", and either will be understood and tolerated.
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Re: on line

Post by Ken Greenwald » Sun Aug 25, 2013 4:43 am

<2009 “Joan stood on line in the lavatorium waiting her turn for the ritual hand washing before mass.”— Pope Joan by D. W. Cross, page 297> [[The time is the 9th century and the place is Rome.]]
Aha! D. W. Cross, I said to myself, is from New York City and her copy editor is either from there also or was just careless. But when I checked (can’t say anything about the copy editor) I found that Ms. Cross was born and raised in Chicago! A counterexample to my hard and fast rule??? Oy vey! (>:)
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Ken – August 24, 2013
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