November 24, 2012

This and that, or rather, "at" and "the"

Some changes are hard to accept. Twenty or thirty years ago, everyone used the words "at", "the", "in" and "on" in similar fashion. You didn't have to think about it. But times change.

In recent years, I've noted that people say "at" when I'd say "on" (or sometimes, "in"). For instance:
"At Mars, you can start a self-sustaining civilization and grow it into something really big," Musk told an audience at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London on Friday. (Interesting story, BTW)
"At" Mars? I'd feel much more comfortable saying "on Mars..." But "at" is used more often these days. People even say someone is "at Paris". C'mon, they're in Paris, no? This use of "at" rakes against my grain but I guess I can't call it improper anymore.

I've noticed something else. Many Americans drop the word "the" when referring to our country by name, at least when it's the subject of a sentence. When Hilary Clinton spoke recently alongside Egypt's president, Mohamed Mursi, she began her words with "United States". Not "the" United States. I can't find a video of her remarks, but the sentence was along the lines of "United States believes..." whatever. I guess it's official. We are United States.

I have many friends who were born in other countries, and I long ago noted that they don't say "the" when saying United States. For instance, they say "Everyone wants to be in United States." So I was primed for this. I guess we're aligning with the way the world refers to us.

Noted in passing. (Shrugs and walks off set.)


Artichoke Annie said...

I guess as the world shrinks we become more a part of it. I remember growing up it was "the Congo" now it is just Congo. But in that instance there had been political changes and it became a way to separate the old from the new.

Didn't we used to refer to 'the Philippines" has the disappeared there as well?

In America we go to "the hospital" in England the poor chap was taken to hospital.

South of our borders the country Estados Unidos Mexicanos / United States of Mexico is looking to change their name simply to Mexico.

Of course their name doesn't have anything to do with us ' greatest nation on earth' - they were reflecting their unification after gaining independence from Spain in 1824.

Ironic, in the U.S. they want the Mexicanos gone and in Mexico the desire is to get rid of the United States.

writenow said...

Thanks for the good comment, Annie.

As for us going to "the hospital" while Brits are "taken to hospital", it's even a bit stranger. I believe they say "at hospital". Horrors! When I get sick I want to be in the hospital, not at it. I think I'll get better more quickly.