More on “Weds.”

I’ve just finished the new thriller “The Girl on the Train,” written by the Englishwoman Paula Hawkins. I read the American edition and I’m not sure to what extent (if any) British expressions in the original were translated into Americanese. But there were a few that cropped up repeatedly: “buggy” (Americans would say “stroller”), “come round for a visit” (“around”), and one I wasn’t aware of–the transitive verb “quieten,” as in “quieten a baby.” Americans say “quiet.”

When I was almost done with the book, I came upon this (I’m pretty sure there aren’t any spoilers):

IMG_1914

The thing that caught my eye was “Weds.” Longtime readers may recall my dislike of this abbreviation for “Wednesday” (my preference is “Wed.”), and my not notably successful attempt to determine if it’s a Britishism.

(If you want to know why it annoys me, here’s why: “Wed.” is a perfectly good, shorter, abbreviation; there is no tradition of skipping over letters in abbreviations [there is “Dr.” and “Mr.” but they go right to the last letter in the word]; and “Weds.”–unlike a decent abbreviation–doesn’t even represent how the first part of the word sounds–that would be “Wends” or “Wens.”)

“The Girl on the Train” would suggest, though it doesn’t prove, that a Britishism “Weds.” is.

47 responses to “More on “Weds.”

  1. I think you caught a peculiar, idiosyncratic, rarely-used Brit abbreviation there. Most people these days use dates rather than named days of the week in anything other personal diaries. Confusion’s too easy.

    Personally I would only ever record the first three letters of a day – if ever I had to write it.

    So… while on the subject, why is that Christmas can be easily recognised [sic] as 251215 or even 151225 (with or without slashes or full stops [sic] , depending on context or application), do you non-metric people still refer to it as 12/25/15? It’s almost incomprehensible as calling 5 shillings “5s 0d” instead of £0.25.

    cheers

  2. It reminds me of the way county names are shortened on addresses; Nottinghamshire to Notts, Cambridgeshire to Cambs, etc., although in that case the ‘s’ is the initial letter of shire, and doesn’t explain the s in ‘weds’.

  3. In the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, which uses British English, they list both Wed. and Weds. as acceptable abbreviations so I think this is standard and not one person’s idiosyncratic style. Actually, Oxford University Press uses Wed. as their preferred abbreviation.

  4. I’m a Brit who uses “Weds” (only informally, in SMSes and such), but I don’t think of the “s” as being the one from later in the word, I think of it more like the “s” in “whatevs” for “whatever”, or “Pops” for a (grand)father, or “Bucks” for “Buckinghamshire”, or “geoggers” for “geography”…i.e., I have no idea why it’s there. I also use “Sats” for Saturday. And “tomoz” for “tomorrow”, though that’s probably a separate thing like “soz”, “Gaz”, “Jez”, etc.

  5. I asked my family here in Devon Eng. to comment on this and most said they’d use “wed” although some said “weds”
    They said however that were they asked to comment on arranging appointments and Wednesday was unsuitable for several weeks etc. they said they’d use the abreviation “weds” as in “can’t do weds”
    I really can’t see there is an issue here regarding Brit or US english.

  6. When I skip letters in an abbreviation, I fill them in with an apostrophe, e.g., def’n for definition and rec’d for received (as I was taught way back when in school).

    I’ve never heard “‘quieten,’ as in ‘quieten a baby,'” (in my world, we would say, “quiet the baby”), but I suspect “quieten” has Germanic roots, as does “outen,” as in “outen the lights.”

    • Quiet quieten quietening… I hadn’t really noticed this before where quieten was rarely used in the USA. The “en” ending is quite inconsistent then as I hear “got / gotten” and “short /shorten and shortening” among numerous other examples.
      I hadn’t appreciated the German influence…which of course makes sense.

      • The -en in ‘gotten’ is an apple to ‘quieten’s orange. It’s a past participle ending, as British has in ‘eaten’, ‘forgotten’, etc. The other -en turns adjectives into verbs, as you note in ‘shorten’, but also ‘lighten’, ‘darken’ and others.
        Worth noting that ‘quiet’ as a verb goes back to the 14th century, but ‘quieten’ only to the 18th. So, it’s a case of BrE adding the suffix, rather than AmE leaving it off.

      • It’s more like soft (adj) – soften (vb) or stiff (adj) – stiffen (vb).

      • Lynne and Catherine.. I think I understand…can you clarify Hal’s reference to “out” and “outen” I can’t see “out” as an adjective. I must say it does seem staggering how much it’s possible to learn from this site.

  7. Has “buggy” replaced “pram” since I last lived in England (a long time ago)? Or do they refer to different types of infant conveyances?

    • Not exactly – a buggy is not the same as a pram. A pram is a very specific type of child-carrying vehicle which is basically a horizontally-based, rectangular box on wheels. A buggy is a baby chair on wheels which can be organised in lots of different permutations. In fact these days they are so complicated and multi-purpose that they get to be called Baby Transport Systems. I kid you not.

  8. ‘Buggy’ is a catchall for prams or pushchairs these days, in my experience. The upmarket baby conveyances are convertible between forms, so it’s convenient. Very few use actual prams. Hard to fit on a bus and they grow out of them too soon.

    There’s some discussion of these terms on my blog (or in the comments) at the posts on ‘push’-vehicles:
    http://separatedbyacommonlanguage.blogspot.co.uk/2006/09/push-vehicles.html
    And baby paraphernalia:
    http://separatedbyacommonlanguage.blogspot.co.uk/2008/01/baby-talk-introducing-grover.html

  9. Cameron: A buggy is closer to a push-chair, but with the implication it is sturdy enough to replace a pram.

  10. Buggy and pram are different, a buggy is more of a pushchair I don’t suppose we really have many prams around now as they are a bit old fashioned (but lovely) at a push I guess you could say a buggy is a cross between the two but there are so many different types out there now it’s difficult to describe one.

    I used Weds in text messages etc, I wouldn’t shorten it in speech. I don’t know anyone who just uses Wed, it feels unfinished to me.

  11. Not quite Cameron..
    Pram is short for perambulator although most Brits may not realize this. Buggy is short for Baby Buggy and is a different object. Typically it’s right angle triangle in profile where the hypotenuse is extended to form handles. It will have 4 (sometimes 3) small wheels and its usually foldable for stowing in a car or bus etc.
    I think I can confidently say in the English speaking world, Britain stands alone with this term and possibly Pram. Recent visits to NZ, Oz and Canada in my anecdotal experience would confirm this and the term Stroller in the UK is rarely used.

    • I think a buggy is what in the UK we called a pushchair when my brother was a baby back at the start of the sixties. (I presume I was in one in the fifties, but I was too young to notice what it was called.)

    • Growing up in northwestern Pennsylvania in the 1970’s we exclusively used the term “baby buggy;” we didn’t abbreviate or shorten words/phrases like the British do. I don’t think strollers had been invented yet.

  12. Robert Binning

    No tradition of skipping letters in abbreviations? Jas Capt Cpl Sgt Messrs Ltd Revd

  13. I think the pushchair and the pram have merged in the buggy. It’s shaped like a pushchair in a way, but because the body of the thing is detachable it can be upright like a pushchair or recumbent like a pram – or removed to become a strapped-in car seat. Pushchairs and prams of old seem no longer to exist.

  14. Robert Binning, I believe all your examples follow the form I mentioned in regard to “Mr.” and “Dr.”–they end with the last letter in the word, which somehow makes it better for me. “Weds.” skips from the d to the s, for no reason I can figure out. Here’s a question that I don’t think has been addressed by any comment: does anyone say “Weds.” (as opposed to writing it)? And if so, how do you pronounce it?

    • In the photo you posted my daughters all interpreted “Weds” as plural. Otherwise they all preferred “Wed” All are English through and through so I in my unscientific way still feel “weds” is not British in the way I think you are suggesting.

    • I say ‘Weds’ as well as writing it. I pronounce it as written, /wɛdz/

      • Thank you. I have never actually heard anyone say it, which may (or may not) be significant. And by the way, I have never encountered anyone called Nicks! (Other than Stevie.)

  15. I think there are two reasons for the skip to the s. Firstly there may be a sense that we are abbreviating the word before “day” in the compound (so that we are moving to the end in a way, and recognising the two elements is possible in, for instance, cm or cwt) and secondly it may be influenced by its neighbours, which also have at least two accepted abbreviations: Tue/Tues, Wed/Weds, Thu/Thur/Thurs.

    Personally (UK) I prefer the versions with esses (this may be a generation thing; I am very ancient) although the others don’t vex me. I am for some reason vexed by Jun and Jul, and I could never work out which was ult and which was inst, so I’m glad they’ve disappeared.

    • And it occurs to me that we also abbreviate the element before “day” in b’day=birthday and y’day=yesterday. So I suggest that just as we are abbreviating birth to b’ using the “apostrophe for missing letters” rule, so we are also abbreviating wednes to weds, using the “skip to last letter” rule. That’s my story, anyway.

  16. Robert Binning

    I miss inst and ult.

  17. I would feel that it was an insult to my intelligence if I had to read an American novel which was altered in some way to make it more comprehensible to an English reader. I want the original!

    • I agree. It’s very common practice UK and US editors, publishers, movie producers, etc are equally guilty of editing text and speech to their local norms.
      Please stop it!
      It’s ugly and distracting and it’s insulting to the reader or listener. Surely we are not so ignorant that Americans have difficulty with UK English and vice versa? Even if one has never seen a word the meaning is usually clear. And it’s a good way of learning. It’s made me fairly bilingual in UK and US English.
      I recently saw a UK movie in which a well-known English actor, playing an English detective in England referred to the ‘elevator’. Presumably the producers fear that Americans wouldn’t understand ‘lift’.
      And BBC news misquoted an American as saying that he ‘queued’ to buy a new Apple product in Los Angeles, obviously fearing that Brits wouldn’t understand ‘lined up’.
      This is condescending and it’s offensive. Besides denying the reader or listener the original words of the author.
      Stop it! Give us the original text if it’s in any major school of English. We can cope.

  18. This discussion also highlights the transatlantic differences in the application of full stops (periods) following abbreviations. US (U.S.) English tends to use the full stop, Mr., Capt., and Wed. for example, whereas UK English omits it: Dr, Hants and Thu unless at the end of a sentence.

  19. The rule on the use of a full stop is that if the abbreviation ends with the last letter of the word, e.g. Mr or Dr, then there is no full stop; if the abbreviation does not end with the last letter the full stop is used to indicate that it is a contraction of the word. BTW I have always assumed Weds is plural.

    • If there is such a rule regarding contractions in British English, then it is now followed more in the breach; for example, Maj, Gen, Prof, pram, café, disco.

      • Robert Binning

        I would have thought that pram, disco and café were all considered words in their own right now, whatever their origins. I would correct any letter put in front of me that didn’t use a full stop after a contraction that didn’t end with the last letter of the word.

      • Guy Hamilton

        There certainly is such a rule ie, ‘… if the abbreviation ends with the last letter of the word, e.g. Mr or Dr, then there is no full stop; if the abbreviation does not end with the last letter the full stop is used to indicate that it is a contraction of the word.’
        I try to adhere to it. I believe that the same rule applies in French and in Spanish.
        For what longer word do you imagine ‘café’ to be a contraction? It is simply the French for ‘coffee’ or for ‘coffee shop’. It is not a contraction of the Spanish, ‘cafetería’, which also means ‘coffee shop’ in the original but a somewhat different thing in English.

  20. Out of interest…”The Girl on the Train.” Did you enjoy it?

  21. Slightly off topic, I only add this as a mild recollection. When my father arrived in Britain from Australia just before WW2, he was surprised to find that English people (as opposed to Scots) would add an “S” to his name for no obvious reason he could see. I too found that during my working career I occasionally had letters from colleagues addressed to “Dr Jacks”
    Perhaps this is an English affectation, adding S to words and abbreviations? Maybe it’s similar to some English speakers adding the letter R to words which don’t have it and leaving it off words that do.. For example “Drawrings” rather than “Drawings” and “Cah” rather than “Car”
    Anyway please forgive my inexpert/irrelevant observations.

  22. Thurs would also be common in the UK. And Tues would be understood, although not so common.

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