otherwhither, whence, wherefore, hither and thither

< Previous | Next >

andersxman

Senior Member
Denmark/danish
I had a brief conversation with a university professor who teaches English. He told me that the reason we didn't run into each other the day before was that he was "otherwither" - or elsewhere, in modern English.

I don't think it can surprise anyone that I was unfamiliar with the term, because he did kindly admit that it was "ever so slightly antiquated".

Now, I've found "otherwhere" on the dictionary, but "otherwither" doesn't show up. (I only run into on Google, a meer 31 hits)

Does anyone know where the latter part of the word, "whiter", comes from? And who would use this word today, besides "ever so slightly antiquated university professors"?
 
  • panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I'm fairly sure that the professor was saying overwhither in an accent that does not pronounce the h in wh.
    From the OED:
    otherwhither
    rare
    To another place - though the examples given would allow for the professor's elsewhere meaning.

    But whence came whither, you ask.
    Whither = To what place? First recorded example, c825.
    (Whence = From what place?)

    Whither is not often used these days, and when it is used it is probably with humorous intent - invoking the sense of the quaint and archaic.
     

    andersxman

    Senior Member
    Denmark/danish
    Well, the (almost) exact exchange was as follows:

    Prof.: "At what time were you at place X?"

    Me: "I was there at three o'clock"

    Prof. "Oh, that's why we didn't meet. I was (insert: synonym of "elsewhere" - and I'm all but convinced that it was "otherwhither".

    Me: "Does that mean "elsewhere"?

    Prof.: "Indeed it does. It is ever so slightly antiquated. As am I."


    EDIT: Overwhither is very rare, it appears. What does it mean? I can't find it in any dictionary.

    Otherwhither: "to" another place, indicating movement? That would suggest that the professr (who is undeniably very, very competent) has used the term incorrectly?
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    The definition and the etymology indicate "to another place".
    The OED examples would equally support "elsewhere".
    If the learned professor is basing his use of otherwhither on such examples, then his usage is consistent.

    Here they are:
    1575 J. BANISTER Needefull Treat. Chyrurg. (1585) I. 124 If the humor yet be flowing draw it otherwhither by blood letting.
    1922 J. JOYCE Ulysses 369 He should go otherwhither.
    1952 J. B. CABELL Quiet, Please 47 My deductions have ranged quite otherwhither.
     

    andersxman

    Senior Member
    Denmark/danish
    Ok, so to seriously spook the next English person I speak to I'll say something like "I need to be otherwhither shortly".

    So "whither" and "whence" sort of form a pair of words with opposite meanings?

    EX:
    A) Hello B, "whence" do you come?

    B) I come from the football pitch.

    A) And "whither" art thou going?

    B) I'm going to the showers.

    Above and beyond the extreme oddity of such an exchange, is it grammatically correct?

    Thank you for your help.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Whence, although it has the sense of from where, is often accompanied by from - from whence.

    But your sentences are probably correct - I guess:) Here is one example of both whence and whither in the one sentence.

    1886 STEVENSON Kidnapped xxv, There was no question put of whence I came or whither I was going.

    Perhaps you might try: "Whence comest thou?" and "Whither goest thou?"

    A lot depends on B's sense of humour, of course.
     

    Nunty

    Senior Member
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    If you want to be really, extremely, seriously odd, add the question "wherefore" (= why).

    Whence do you come and whither do you go and wherefore didn't you send me a postcard?
     

    andersxman

    Senior Member
    Denmark/danish
    Nun Translator, "wherefore" may be very odd in the ears of an English native speaker, but would be readily understod even by a mediocre Danish English speaker (My god, is that correct - a Dane who speaks English - a Danish English speaker!?!). The explantion could be given by historians/etymologists - who would speak of how the old, nordic languages have spawned/influenced English.
    In short, "why" = "hvorfor" = "wherefore", funny isn't it? :rolleyes: (Well, as Panjandrum stated above, it probably depends a lot on peoples' sense of humour!)

    I've also used the word "wherefrom" in a conversation in English, (come to think of it a synonym of "whence") - incidentally in a conversation with the professor mentioned above, who laughed at it and said "that's Danish", and admittedly, it's probably more Danish than it is English. ("hvorfra" would be the Danish word, still used today.)
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Hither - here, or to here. Come hither;)

    Thither - there, or to there. Go thither.

    All of these delightful words have their roots somewhere in Old Norse or similar sources. It should be no surprise to find structural similarity with modern Danish - but it is charming nonetheless.
     

    pieman

    New Member
    English
    Hither – To here
    Thither – To there
    Whither – To where

    Hence – From here
    Thence – From there
    Whence – From where
     

    xinjii

    New Member
    United States - English
    andersxman said:
    Otherwhither: "to" another place, indicating movement? That would suggest that the professr (who is undeniably very, very competent) has used the term incorrectly?
    The "ither" in whither most definitely indicates motion. The same is true for the "ence" in whence (cf. wohin and woher in German). English indicates location (without motion) by the more familiar group of words: where (what place), there (that place), and here (this place). The archaic forms "otherwhere" and "otherwhither" differ, logically, in the same way that "where" and "whither" differ.

    In other words, your professor's usage was undeniably incorrect.
     

    Scalloper

    Senior Member
    UK, English
    In Swedish "här och där" would refer to where something was, the answer to where you were going would be "hit och dit". I don't know if it's different in Danish; in English the hither and thither forms are seen as old-fashioned now.
     

    sleekweasel

    New Member
    English - England
    If you want to be really, extremely, seriously odd, add the question "wherefore" (= why).

    Whence do you come and whither do you go and wherefore didn't you send me a postcard?

    Or even less vernacularly:

    Whence come you, whither go you, and wherefore sent you me no postcard?

    Woot.
     

    Stanis

    New Member
    Russian
    If 'whither' is 'to what place' and 'elsewhere' means 'in or TO another place', can 'elsewhither' mean 'TO some other place' emphasising the motion itself? Would some other hybrid like 'elsewhence' theoretically mean 'FROM some other place'?
     

    magicaltrevor

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    These are very seldom used terms - contractions of there, where and here also indicating direction.

    To there = thither
    To here = hither
    To Where = whither

    From there = thence
    From here = hence
    From where = whence

    The second three are more commonly used, the first three very rarely in spoken english.
     

    sleekweasel

    New Member
    English - England
    To there = thither
    To here = hither
    To Where = whither
    Reminds me of the two phrases 'hither and thither' and 'hither and yon' (yonder).

    I believe '(up) yonder' means '(far away) over there' rather than 'to there'. I suppose 'hither and thither' is thus more about activity back and forth, whereas 'hither and yon' is more about a wide area of coverage.

    There's a comic story 'Albert and the Lion' where the father says 'Yon lion's ate Albert,' using 'yon' as 'that (lion) over there'.
     

    Stanis

    New Member
    Russian
    According to dictionaries, 'yonder' (and 'yon' as its archaic and dialectal variant) can be both adjective and adverb meaning 'Distant but within sight' - 'yon son that sets upon the sea' and 'at or in an indicated (usually distant place)'- 'the place younder'. In this case, can 'younder'/'yon' be substituted to 'that' and 'there'?
     

    magicaltrevor

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    There may well be a strong connection between "yonder" and "there", since there was a (now defunct) letter in old english that looked like a letter "y" but was, in fact, pronounced "th".

    Hence "Ye Olde Shoppe" should simply be pronounced "The old shop".

    So it may be that "yonder" used to be pronounced "thonder", rendering it close to there in sound and meaning.
     
    Last edited:

    Stanis

    New Member
    Russian
    'Ye' is said to be an archaic form of the definite article. Does it have anything to do with the theory that in any language speech changes faster than written language thus increasing the difference between a spoken and a written form? Some letters that exist now as sounds in languages used to be the part of the alphabet. Not sure it can be applied to ALL the languages. What do you think?
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top