Friday, 26 April 2013

Historic Present: so yesterday!

  Why do historians on, for example, "In Our Time" (BBC R4) use the historic present? Don't they realise it annoys many listeners? Aren't they sensitive to the awkwardness caused by doing this, not so much real ambiguity but rather more difficulty in relating events and periods to each other? Also it seems so patronising, as if they are saying, "If we do this we can make history cool, now and happening for the listeners / students / young people / youth." Do they think we are so easily fooled?

  If you look online, you find that, as with many topics, there is much more discussion about it in the US. Things seem to start there and spread fast. Scientists there have been starting every answer with "So..." for years. And others have been complaining about it ever since.


  1. I've been noticing the "So..." but I hadn't realised it was a US scientist affectation/habit. I'll be listening out for it in the UK science community. It's faintly annoying because it's so predictable...but is it worse than...well,

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  3. Thanks, RL. Didn't mean it was a hesitation thing but a deliberate way of starting an answer, perhaps trying to give the impression of being a logical and connected contribution when in fact it was just a beginning, relevant or not.