The English Pedant – Facebook hijacks via as of now

A picture may paint a thousand words, but that idea can only be expressed in words

Language changes partly because wrong usage is not corrected, becomes widespread and is then accepted.

There are a several examples happening right now, spread principally by Facebook.

Consider the word via. It means by way of, or passing through. Or at least it used to mean that until Facebook got hold of it.

Let’s look at it logically. If 1, 2 and 3 are in a straight line, the quickest way to get from 1 to 3 is to go via 2.

Similarly, if, to get from the swimming pool to the your hotel room you have to go through reception, you go to your room via reception.

Therefore on social media, if you share something that came from, say, John Smith, other people receive it via you.

Unfortunately, Facebook doesn’t see it like that. The powers that be there have taken it upon themselves to automatically announce that it came from you via John Smith.

This is a straightforward case of getting it wrong, and getting away with it because the vast majority of people have never thought about it, don’t know and don’t care.

Will something of this sort cause practical problems for the English speaking world? Probably not. What it will cause is disagreements between those who do notice these things and those who don’t. If I’m driving from London to Glasgow but I’m going to stop off in Birmingham to visit somebody, please don’t tell me I’m going to Birmingham via Glasgow. I’m not. I’m going to Glasgow via Birmingham.

There is another way of putting it: I’m stopping in Birmingham en route to (i.e. on the road to) Glasgow, but that doesn’t work in the Facebook context.

Another mistake being propagated in this way is the use of as of. If something happens as of 1 July, it starts happening on 1 July. If you’re describing a situation on a particular date, it’s as at. The situation as at 1 July did not, does not or will not necessarily continue after that date.It may or it may not. If you’re talking about a situation that began on that date and continued for a period of days, weeks, months or whatever, it is, has been, was or will be happening as of 1 July.

That is all. Carry on.