An English friend of mine says that he nearly had a heart attack on a flight in the United States when the American pilot announced that the plane would be airborne "momentarily.' 'In British English, the language my friend speaks, "momentarily" means "for a moment," and he thought the pilot was suggesting an imminent crash soon after takeoff. In American English, however, "momentarily" means "in a moment," and the pilot was merely appeasing the impatient passengers.I had my suspicions that Shashi Tharoor was not, in fact, accurately representing the subject matter. I had my suspicions, that's all. This is not intended to be a commentary on Shashi Tharoor himself. Although I hate to miss out on any opportunity to call into question a politician's motives.
Some of it was pretty clearly false.
A British linguist once told a New York audience that whereas a double negative could make a positive, there was no language in the world in which a double positive made a negative. A heckler put paid to his thesis in forthright American: "Yeah, right."
When the flight attendant would say, “We will be landing in Chicago momentarily,” I used to enjoy replying, “Will there be time to get off?” But I see the forces of darkness have prevailed, and this and many wrong uses are now deemed acceptable by the alleged guardians of our language, the too-quickly supine dictionary makers. Are they afraid of being judged “not with it”? What ever happened to, “Everybody does it don’t make it right”?
I chose the quotation because it's an especially clear example of the sentiment that usage, no matter how widespread and how authoritative, doesn't outweigh the peever's sense that a certain usage is somehow morally wrong. But having chosen the passage, I felt in duty bound to check the implication that the evil sense of momentarily is a recent development, limited to ill-educated flight attendants and similar corporate drudges.