While. Apparently has an appeal similar to that of amongst and amidst. But yo, I have found a new tool, or should I say toy. Since starting Not One-Off Britishisms, I have relied on Google Ngram, which shows the relative popularity, over time, of a word or phrase in a variety of databases (British English, American English, English, etc.). It’s great, but has the drawback of being limited to published books, which, having gone through a formidable editorial process, are not the earliest adopters of new words and phrases and linguistic trends. I’ve just discovered Google Trends, which shows two trends: the popularity of a word in web searches and, more useful for my purposes, its use in Google News sites. Google News, which can be localized to the U.S. or any other country, includes not only newspapers and magazines, but many web sites. Hence its ear is closer to the ground than Ngram–more “demotic,” as my English Department colleagues would say.
The results for whilst are instructive. Ngram shows a steady decline in American English from about 1810 till 1990 (my provisional date for the beginning of the not one-off-Britishisms trend!) and from then till now a flat line. But Google Trends shows a steady increase starting at the beginning of 2008.
[S]ince many of us do our talking whilst driving, might they consider coming up with a mobile phone that only works in the house, while we’re not spewing emissions along with our hot air? [Matt Richtel, New York Times “Bits” blog, August 22, 2007)/Whilst scouring my mental vault of classroom distractions this past week, I recalled a favorite past time of my youth. Before Facebook and Minecraft, when Netscape Navigator was the browser of choice among proto-hipsters, Cartoon-Network.com ruled my leisure. (Daily Princeonian, blog. April 4, 2011)