Friday, June 20, 2008

Anon, Anon!

Today at work, through a bizarre series of non-sequiturs, I ended up discussing with my employee the Shakespearean meaning of "anon", and whether it specifically means "in a minute" (i.e., an expectation of shortly, like "I come anon!"), or if it generally means "sometime soon", like "I will speak with you anon".  Is there a difference?  Perhaps the word means the same thing, and it is the delivery that determines the difference.


catkins said...

Anon is somwhat plastic and is definitely dependent on the context. Most often it means "soon" or "presently," but as with the Italian "subito," it can just mean some time in the future that the hearer wants to be soon and the speaker knows very well will not! On the other hand, there are also some instances where anon means "the moment after" as "now and anon" comparable to "now and then." Also, the phrase "now . . . anon" means "at one moment . . . at the next." See Abbott's Elizabethan Grammar, p. 39.

Alan K.Farrar said...

What was it Humpty said to Alice - When I use a word, it means just what I want it to mean - nothing more, nothing less?

Dictionaries hadn't been invented - words were (and are) flexible - meaning is negotiated.

I go with 'immediate' - in Romanian usually meaning, if you are lucky, the waiter will be back in 5 to 10 mins.

It can also mean - 'I heard you'.

Or - 'not a cat in hells chance, mate'.

So too, with anon - OK?

fobnqruk! (Anon)

catkins said...

The Society for the Preservation of the Adverb would point out that you must have meant to say "immediately" rather than "immediate."

Alan K.Farrar said...

Ermmm - what was it Humpty said?

As I said, "in Romanian" ...!

Classic 'false friend' - and warning about defining meaning in one culture for a usage in another?

Romania is fascinating place for all things Shakespearean - very early modern in outlook and attitude (and consequent usage of the language to reflect that).

J. Rosemary Moss said...

I'm still smiling at a vocabulary sentence one of my eighth graders handed in this past school year while we were studying Shakespeare:

Anon, Mom! I was just tying my sneakers!