Sunday, 24 February 2008

Be There Now

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I've lived in the North East of England for nearly eight years, and at some point in the last four or five, I began to notice what I assumed to be a quaint dialectical turn of phrase. Let me give you an example:

Tom: "Two sausage rolls and a steak bake, please."
Greggs member of staff: "That's seven pence please, pet."
Tom: "Here you go: the exact change."

Greggs member of staff: "Thanks now."

Erm, I'm sorry? Thanks now? Why explicitly thank me now? Is there a regional need for temporal clarity and has it embarrassingly passed me by? Should I thank someone later or earlier in certain social circumstances?

It got worse.

Tom: "Thanks a lot, have a good evening."
Taxi driver: "Bye now."

It got worse.

Tom: "Cheers."
Newsagent: "See you later now."

What was this gibberish? At first, my tolerance of provincial backwaters and my young, naive mind caused me to assume that I was dealing with a North Eastern quirk; one which sat comfortably alongside the more familiar Geordie cliches ('pet', 'howay' and 'we're a massive club, ye naa'*).

But then, on the subsequent occasions when I journeyed south, to Manchester, to London, a harrowing realisation dawned. I was shocked, appalled, repelled. This vile turn of phrase was everywhere. This was no regional linguistic nuance. This was a plague.

It got worse.

Tom: "Just this bottle of wine please."
Attractive (but thick) shop assistant: "That's £4.99 there."
Tom: "Here you go."
Attractive (but thick) shop assistant: "That's a penny change there."
Tom: "Bye now."

I don't understand this here. It's some sort of fear of the plain sentence now. It's as though the user wants to avoid appearing curt, and feels the need to drop a meaningless positional or temporal adverb in to soften their impact there.

If you hear it, correct it.

*A joke which will only be understood by UK readers.
Blogger Francis said...

Eh, it's just part of the regional dialect that makes the UK interesting. If I go to Devon and someone ends a sentence with "my lover", it doesn't mean I'm shagging them. Likewise ending sentences with "pet" doesn't mean I'm some kind of sexual submissive.

I'm say that these are part of the tapestry of the English language in the UK and, compared with things like apostrophe abuse, are nothing. Getting rid of regional dialectic quirks will leave us in a horrible, politically correct society where everyone speaks exactly the same.

So, don't fret this, is my opinion.

24 February 2008 at 21:17  
Blogger Gez said...

Greggs is very reasonably priced in Newcastle.

Thanks now, bye there.

25 February 2008 at 10:20  
Blogger Tom said...

I think you have missed my point, Francis. I was saying that this isn't a dialectical phenomenon. It's just bad, silly English. Nationwide, bad, silly English.

25 February 2008 at 22:43  
Blogger JD said...

Is saying 'bye now' better or worse than saying 'bye then'?

27 February 2008 at 16:58  
Blogger aliqot said...

I disagree with you, Tom. You're being too rigid. Language is not just about grammar, it's about other ways of communicating, and if this helps people to feel slightly less distant, I see no problem with it.

And I consider myself something of a pedant, even though I begin a sentence with a conjunction from time to time.

29 February 2008 at 10:07  
Blogger Gez said...

It is a strange habit that seems to be on the increase. I like the warped logic of "see you later now".
There's not too much wrong with it but thanks to this post it'll bug me every time I hear it.

Thanks now, Tom.

JD - I think "bye there" is worse than "bye now".

29 February 2008 at 11:47  
Blogger LimeyG said...

Maybe it's an abbreviation of "bye for now"? (Although of course that doesn't explain "bye then," does it?)

I grew up on Teesside (note regionally correct use of preposition there). The phrase I love, and have been trying to explain to my Puerto Rican husband, is when the speaker's innate selfhood is emphasized, e.g. "I'm going to get hammered tonight, me, I am." Or "I like chips, me, I do."

It's almost as though they're worried people might assume they're talking about someone else. Ah, My People!

7 April 2008 at 19:42  

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