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Till or 'til: It's one, not the other

A Word, Please

June 14, 2006|By JUNE CASAGRANDE

A rift is dividing our great land, one that threatens to erupt into violence in the streets, tearing our nation in two. On one side: darkness ? a powerful deceptive force, misleading the masses like a false prophet bent on our destruction. On the other side, light ? a beleaguered but dedicated contingent of comrades devoted to truth.

I'm not talking about Red States vs. Blue States. I'm not talking about religious extremists bent on theocracy vs. defenders of freedom for all. I'm not talking about the war we've all been waiting for: a hair pulling, face-slapping, name-calling melee between Brangelina and Vincifer. I'm talking about the battle for our hearts and minds shaping up between advertising writers and their counterparts in newspapers and magazines ? the battle over advertisers' determination to usurp our good, just and right word "till" with their adulterated, perverse substitute, "'til."

The battle is set to begin.

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The advertising copywriters will arrive at the front in crisp Brooks Brothers uniforms, charging into the fray in a fleet of sparkling BMWs. The ragtag band of newspaper and book writers, sporting slightly irregular "I got it at Ross" attire, will carpool in an 18-year-old Volvo with no hubcaps.

The battle will be brutal but short, in part because of the newspaper and book writers' perennially weak and malnourished state. But on the bloody morning after, only one single-syllable alternative to the word "until" will remain standing.

If evil should prevail, not only will we continue to see furniture store ads boasting, "No payments 'til 2007," not only will we see fast-food signs announcing, "Open 'til midnight," but we'll see common people everywhere falling prey to the believe that this is the correct replacement for "until."

And of course, the winners will rewrite the history books, completely erasing enlightening passages that exist in today's style guides.

"till. This is a perfectly good preposition and conjunction (open till 10 p.m.). It is not a contraction of until and should not be written 'til." ? Chicago Manual of Style.

"Till is, like until, a bona fide preposition and conjunction. Though less formal than until, till is neither colloquial nor substandard?. If a form deserves a 'sic,' it's the incorrect 'til." ? Bryan Garner, "Garner's Modern American Usage

"till or until, but not 'til." ? The Associated Press Stylebook

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