As I am want to do

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Aoyama, Dec 12, 2008.

  1. Aoyama Senior Member

    川崎市、巴里 (黎)
    français Clodoaldien
    I understand that expression, that I had thought was wrong at first sight, as meaning "it is my tendancy to do so, I am incline/I have a propensity to do something".
    But where does it come from and how old is it. Shakespearian ?
  2. SwissPete

    SwissPete Senior Member

    94044 USA
    Français (CH), AE (California)
    The expression is to be wont to do (see here).
  3. Aoyama Senior Member

    川崎市、巴里 (黎)
    français Clodoaldien
    Both seem to be used. But thank you for the information, I didn't know that one either ...
  4. SwissPete

    SwissPete Senior Member

    94044 USA
    Français (CH), AE (California)
    I have never seen to be want to be to mean to be inclined to. :(
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2008
  5. Aoyama Senior Member

    川崎市、巴里 (黎)
    français Clodoaldien
    I didn't either, but it is correct, believe you me.
  6. MarcB Senior Member

    US English
    I am in agreement that the word wont has this meaning. In the other thread a Canadian mentioned not having ever heard it. I can say that having had to read a lot of literature in school I have seen it many times but not in daily conversation. If want has the same meaning I would like to see a reference for it since I have never seen or heard of it.
  7. Aoyama Senior Member

    川崎市、巴里 (黎)
    français Clodoaldien
    That was my first reaction, but try googling it and you will find many occurrence of the expression.
  8. kalamazoo Senior Member

    US, English
    The correct expression is "wont" to do, meaning accustomed to do. If someone writes "want to do" it's an error (maybe just a spelling error, but still an error).
  9. Aoyama Senior Member

    川崎市、巴里 (黎)
    français Clodoaldien
    And that shows that some native speakers are not to be trusted blindly.
    So SwissPete was also right.
    It should be : As I am wont to do , nothing to do with old English or the like.
  10. sdgraham

    sdgraham Senior Member

    Oregon, USA
    USA English
    Google can show you how many mistakes people make as well as how often people use the language correctly.

    The simple existence of usage on Google should no more be taken as an authoritative source on the English language than spray-paint graffiti on warehouse walls.

    Wikipedia isn't perfect but "wont/want" is listed on the Wikipedia
    List of commonly misused English words
  11. Aoyama Senior Member

    川崎市、巴里 (黎)
    français Clodoaldien
    quite true also
    very relevant and precious link, thank you.
  12. kalamazoo Senior Member

    US, English
    I would regard "want' for 'wont' as being pretty close to a spelling error, rather than a usage error, because they sound almost exactly alike. It's kind of like writing "too" instead of "to" or "two." Although writing it as "want" does indicate the writer doesn't really understand that it's a different word, so it is a usage error in that sense.
  13. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    The City of New York
    USA - English
    I am sorry, but I do not believe you, because it is simply not correct. It is instead an error committed by those who are ignorant of the existence of the word "wont", and who instead think that the word they are hearing is the more common "want", and thus spell it that way. This may make the spelling common, but it does not make it anything other than a mistake.
  14. Aoyama Senior Member

    川崎市、巴里 (黎)
    français Clodoaldien
    Well, as the thread has evolved and in light of what has been said (and explained), you are right (and I was -but in good faith- somewhat wrong).
    Let it be said however that I did duly asked some of my American colleagues (no Britisher there) about the problem, and none reacted at the mistake (that it is).
    One even said (sic) : "it sounds like a mistake but it is very correct".
    Makes you wonder ...
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2008
  15. Aardvark01

    Aardvark01 Senior Member

    Midlands, England
    British English (Midlands)
    Former Secretary of State Colin Powell objected for a day or so but then saluted sharply, as is his wont.
    Consortium News - Dec 10, 2008

    Though you can taste the envy in the air when, as is his wont, Manilow plucks a woman from the audience ..., UK - Dec 5, 2008

    Kanye spoke from the heart that evening, as is his wont...
    Campbellton Tribune, Canada - Dec 2, 2008

    This last one is the only result for a news search using "as is his/her want", which I am inclined to view as a spelling error:

    In fact Fernandez Ordoñez is right, as is his want :cross:- right on a technicality.
    Seeking Alpha, NY - Nov 20, 2008
  16. Aoyama Senior Member

    川崎市、巴里 (黎)
    français Clodoaldien
    Thank you for those precisions.
  17. kalamazoo Senior Member

    US, English
    I know some of my non-native English speaking friends run up against the problem that even if they make a mistake, native speakers are too polite to mention it or will just say something is right when it isn't really right, as long as it's close.
  18. Antipodean

    Antipodean Senior Member

    Queensland, Australia
    English (Australian)
    In answer to Aoyama’s first questions about how old is it and where does it come from, I have gleaned the following from Fowler’s Dictionary of Modern English Usage (2nd ed. 1968) and The Chambers Dictionary of Etymology:

    Its origins appear to go back at least to 899 in Alfred’s translation of Boethius’ De Consolatione Philosophiae where he uses the word wunian. The Old English wunian is cognate with, inter alia, Old Frisian wonia, wunia to dwell, to be accustomed, Old Saxon wunon, wonon, Middle Dutch and modern Dutch wonen, Old High German wonēn (modern German wohnen to dwell), Old Icelandic una to dwell, be content, and Gothic –wunan be content, from Proto-Germanic. The noun disappeared from use during the 1700s but reappeared in the 1800s, perhaps from its use by Shelly and Scott. Interestingly, I find no reference to the word wont in Samuel Johnson’s A Dictionary of the English Language which I understand was compiled between 1746 and 1755. (That said, I don’t think his dictionary was exhaustive.)

    Both the OED and Fowler list the Siamese twin use and wont (established custom) but I have neither heard it, nor until today, seen it. According to the OED, it has/had three usages. Firstly, it was used as an adjective: He was wont to arise at 5:30 every morning meaning accustomed to. It was a poetic and literary usage and I have never heard it used but I’ve certainly seen the written version. Secondly, it was used as a verb: Wont thy heart to thoughts thereof meaning, I assume, Accustom your heart to such thoughts. Finally, it was and still is, used as a noun: Constance, as was her wont, had paid her little attention - As was her habit, Constance had paid her little attention. It’s hard to say just how often this turn of phrase is used – I would be surprised if I have ever heard it used more than half a dozen times in the past 30 years; it would be along the lines of: as is his wont, as is her wont. This last usage neither sounds affected nor archaic to my ear – but it does sound considered. Perhaps this is because it is almost an expression figée if you like. Also, it’s not a long word, and I wonder if its longevity, as a noun at least, might be attributed to its Saxon heritage? Despite its being largely confined to considered speech, it has a certain air of “homeliness” about it. It just feels right to my mind. So it doesn’t seem out of place even when spoken. Rather, it is one of those rare gems in English and I hope it stays around for a long time to come.
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2008
  19. Aoyama Senior Member

    川崎市、巴里 (黎)
    français Clodoaldien
    Thank you Antipodean for this very enlightened and enlightening explanation.
    In fact, I had asked about the "age" of the expression (which happened to be wrong, as our discussion has clearly proven), because one of my American colleague had said "it sounds like a mistake but it is very correct", adding "it's old English, probably Shakespearian" (!).
    As for
    In that particular case, I didn't commit any mistake, but had received a message containing the phrase. I asked some of my colleagues ... I dare think giving a wrong answer is not a matter of (ill-placed) politeness but of simple ignorance.
    Now, was the answer close ... That is a matter a judgement.
    Makes you wonder ... and/or wander ...
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2008
  20. kalamazoo Senior Member

    US, English
    I like the Old English word "wunian." There's something very appealing about it.
  21. Antipodean

    Antipodean Senior Member

    Queensland, Australia
    English (Australian)
    From my observation, French and English speakers have a different perspective when it comes to language. English speakers, by and large, consider language as something largely utilitarian: it's a process and a means to an end. Getting your point across and winning the argument is too often all that counts. French speakers have a different view: language is not a process, it's like art, it's something to be worked upon, cherished ... something without end. I know one could find many holes in my observation but I think that grosso modo there is at least some truth to it. Therefore, in the English-speaking world, people become very defensive when having their writing or speech corrected because provided they feel (at least in their own minds) that they've got their point across, that should be the end of the matter. For my part, I prefer the French approach - but it took many years to become a wont.

    <French deleted.>
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 14, 2008
  22. cycloneviv

    cycloneviv Senior Member

    Perth, Western Australia
    English - Australia
    I can't help wondering whether your colleague meant the word is very correct as in very formal, not very correct as in representing correct usage.

    I suggest this because we don't usually say something is "very correct" to say that it is right correct rather than erroneous. A word can be used correctly or incorrectly; it can't be used "very correctly". We do, however, say things like "His behaviour is very correct" to mean he behaves in a very formal manner.
  23. Aoyama Senior Member

    川崎市、巴里 (黎)
    français Clodoaldien
    Well, I do to (obviously), though that was not exactly the point here. I just wanted to know the meaning of an expression that sounded (or looked) strange or faulty.

    Well, I don't want to start a debate here about the notion of "very correct" (never heard/used "right correct"). I guess my respected colleague wanted to emphasize that my astonishment had no reason to be ...

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