Saturday, April 14, 2018

The late afternoon of my life

I was writing an email about availability for an event and observed the difference between "afternoon" and "after noon." The former suggests a several hour block of time, and the latter suggests a point in time after which I'm available with no limit on the availability, that is, no end time. "Afternoon" ends at 6 pm. "After noon" never ends unless one suggests an expiration date of twenty-four hours when the nuances start all over again. And then I contemplated whether there is a difference between "anytime" and "any time." Again, there does seem to be a difference with the latter being a more specific point in time. The first seems to emphasize "any" and the second seems to emphasize "time."

In speech, though, it seems these nuances would be more difficult to interpret in that there is perhaps only the slightest difference in accent, or timing, or breaks between each word, or slightly longer puffs of air after the "t" in "time." And since both "r" and "n" are voiced in both "afternoon" and "after noon," they glide into each other continuously with no break. Further, we'd probably say "I'm available after noon" and "I'm available in the afternoon" reinforcing the difference in meaning. However, "I'm available any time" or "I'm available anytime" are written the same and sound nearly the same with just an ever-so-slightly stronger "t" on the "any time."

It should be noted that the one word formulation, "anytime," does not appear in English until the 1926 in a Merriam-Webster dictionary, according to Grammarist, and is used as an adverb and cannot be used with a preposition like "at," so "at any time" would be required, according to Grammarly. "Anytime" does appear in the Oxford English Dictionary, but the earliest noted usage was 1932 in a William Faulkner novel, Light in August, xv., 341 - "If you want to get to Jefferson anytime soon, you'd better go to town and hire a car." "Afternoon" and "after noon" both appear in the OED with their first written usage dating from the 1330s although standardized spelling was a later development. "Afternoon" also has metaphoric associations - "I am in the late afternoon of my life."

“Anymore” and “any more” is another interesting pair. In the latter “any” is an adjective modifying “more.” “Anymore” is an adverb, and first appeared in the 14th century, as in “I don’t like you anymore.” If you said, “I don’t like you any more,” a possible conclusion is you don’t like me any less either. It’s is rather neutral and it might very well be that you still like me. However, if you say, “I don’t like you anymore,” that’s the kiss of death. You have lost a friend. That translates to “I don’t like you at all now.”
In written English, the space between the words, or lack of space, determines which is the intended meaning. In spoken English, it is a combination of context and accent. If I ask you, “Do you like me any less?” and you say “I don’t like you any more” the context suggests you still like me but I’d better not push my luck. If you say “I don’t like you anymore,” the “a” is accented heavier than the “m.” If you say “any more,” then there seems to be a stronger accent on the “m.” Yogi Berra is famous for saying, “It’s too crowded; nobody goes there anymore.” I’m going to dig more into this sometime when I have some time.


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