8.0117 R: British (?) English (1/42)

Wed, 27 Jul 1994 20:12:45 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 8, No. 0117. Wednesday, 27 Jul 1994.

Date: Mon, 25 Jul 1994 13:36:59 +0300 (EET-DST)
From: Judy Koren <LBJUDY@vmsa.technion.ac.il>
Subject: RE: 8.0095 Rs: Subway Poems; Death Sentences (5/110)

Re: how long...

The interesting point about the discussion, to me, is that as a
still-resolute speaker of British English despite the constant
Atlantic surge washing over me, I wouldn't allow the "how long..."
variant to be grammatical when used to specify *time*: I would say,
"for how long...", eg "how long do you bake a cake for?" -- which
could not possibly be answered "18 inches" :-) I would regard
"for how long does one do x?" as synonymous in some *but not all*
circumstances with "how long does it take to do x?" ;
the construction "how long do you fly to America?"
strikes me as simply ungrammatical; (but "for how long do you fly
to America?" I would regard as a foreigner's attempt at "for how long have
you been making trips to America?", inviting the answer, "oh, for
about the last six years..."; it wouldn't immediately occur to
me that it meant "how long does it take to fly to America?")
And "how long is x?" is clearly, to
me, asking for a physical measurement of x. So I would interpret
the question about the train the same as the ticket clerk did:

>I was once in the main railway station in Madras, India where I heard the
>following conversation between an English woman and the ticket clerk:
>She: One first class ticket to Tanjore, please.
>He: 135 rupees, Madam. (or some such)
>She: Excuse me, how long will the train be from Vellore?
>He: Excuse me?
>She: Yes, how long will the train be from Vellore?
>He: (pause to check timetable) The train from Vellore, Madam, will be
> six carriages long.
>She: No, please, excuse me, how _long_ will the train take?
>He: (triumphantly) Oh, Madam, the _duration_ of the _trip_ will be two hours
> and thirty-five minutes.

-- and what really bothers me is that the original question, "how long
will the train be?" was attributed to an English (ie British) woman.
Are you sure she was a British-English speaker and not an Indian-English
speaker? I would have said: "how long will the train take?" or "how
long does the trip take?"

Judy Koren, Haifa, Israel.