One more from Bert

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From Bert Vaux, following up on "U.K. vs. U.S. usage in Lee Child", 6/13/2013:

I just finished "The Affair" (quite good) and only noticed one more feature that I think may be a clear Britishism, "in the event" in the particular sense and construction here:

…I figured if the reduced payload let the Humvee hit sixty-five miles an hour I would be in Carter Crossing again at three minutes past ten.
[new chapter]
In the event the big GM diesel gave me a little better than sixty-five miles an hour, and two minutes short of ten o'clock I pulled up and hid the truck in the last of the trees…

[Update — Note that "in the event" is an idiom used here to mean something like "as it turned out". This is different from "in the event of NP" meaning "in case of NP", "in the event that S" meaning "if S", etc.]

Searches for  {. in the event ,} turn up 56 hits in COCA, for an overall rate of 0.12 per million words, and 304 hits in the BNC, for an overall rate of 3.16 per million words — more than 26 times as common in the British collection.

In addition, many of the COCA hits are in material written by Brits, e.g.

This selection of early texts consists of proposals for Peter Whitehead's first two short films, The Theft (UK, 1963) and Parallels (UK, 1963) – here called Images. They were written as funding applications submitted to the British Film Institute's (BFI) Experimental Film Fund . In the event , the productions were cofunded by the Slade and Whitehead himself.

There was nothing socialist about state welfare, and socialists were right to fear the specter of a national health service. They continued to fear it, and when years later the Beveridge report appeared, in December 1942, it proved a bestseller but was roundly condemned in a letter by Beatrice Webb, an old Fabian, as a disastrous idea — though fortunately, as she added, very unlikely to be acted on . In the event , Labour was the last of the three British parties to accept a National Health Service, and William Beveridge, whom I knew as a neighbor in his last years, was endlessly bitter about the derision that Labour leaders had once heaped on his ideas.

In 1981, the number of points for a win in England was increased from two to three, a system that now exists throughout the world. It can be shown mathematically that a set of results will produce a home advantage figure that is slightly greater if three points are awarded for a win instead of two. However one of the purposes of introducing the new system was to encourage more positive play by both teams, a fact that itself could affect home advantage . In the event , there has actually been a decline in home advantage in England since 1981 (Table 3), so that it is difficult to make any conclusion regarding the effects of the two different points systems.

Most of the quotes from American writers are in academic materials written by people likely to have been influenced by trans-Atlantic models, and sometimes writing about British events:

Thus this, from Anna Chave, "The Guerrilla Girls' Reckoning",  Arts Journal, Summer 2011:

Then the movement was assailed by its own would-be heirs, a rising generation of women wise in the ways of poststructuralist theory, for its putative naivete and susceptibility to essentialism (that feminist in-fighting word to end all in-fighting words) . In the event , the collective's practices were somewhat belated, or indebted to 1970s initiatives — " A lot of the things that the Guerrilla Girls did had been done by feminist groups earlier, but with a different language and a different style, " acknowledged Popova " — not only in their appeals to principles of equality, but also, say, in their gesture of adopting the names of deceased female artists as aliases, a gambit tacitly corroborating feminist art historians' early efforts to rehabilitate forgotten careers.

Or this, from Reuven Frank, "The great coronation war", American Heritage 1993:

The British Broadcasting Company's television coverage of George VI's funeral in February 1952 earned the reluctant approval of Britain's establishment with its decorum and appropriateness and the respectful attention of broadcasting organizations all over the world for its completeness and innovation. The immediate next thought was what " great television " Elizabeth's coronation would be, if one were allowed in . In the event , one was not allowed in. Only the BBC might cover, but it offered to all free access to its pictures. In fact, the mighty contest between the American networks was to be first to show the BBCs pictures.

So it looks like Bert's intuition is right again — this is another small slip of the dialectological ear on Child's part.

In fairness to Child, the (American) character in question was fictionally born in Berlin to an American father and a French mother, and might well have picked up some bits of international English in his travels as a U.S. Army M.P.




  1. Bloix said,

    June 15, 2013 @ 10:17 am

    I first came across "in the event" as a major in history at college. It appeared in books and articles by English authors on the English Civil War or the industrial revolution or some such. When I first read it, I had no idea what it was supposed to mean: in what event? For a while, I supposed that it was a usage unique to historians (there are a few of these, like "contemporary" to mean "of the past time under discussion," rather than "of the present time").

    It's still, AFAIK, mostly unknown on this side of the Atlantic – it doesn't mark one out as British, it's just bewildering.

  2. Eric P Smith said,

    June 15, 2013 @ 10:51 am

    @Bloix: I don't think "contemporary" meaning "of the past time under discussion" is at all unique to historians. The word literally means "at the same time". gives the meaning "living or occurring at the same time" first. I was brought up to regard its use meaning "present-day" as inaccurate, though I agree that usage is growing.

  3. Neal Goldfarb said,

    June 15, 2013 @ 11:19 am

    For some meta-corpus evidence about the current status of contemporary 'present-day': Corpus of Contemporary American English.

  4. Cindy said,

    June 15, 2013 @ 11:46 am

    I use "in the event" as a conditional….in the event of rain, we will move graduation indoors. What would be an American translation of Reacher's usage? "It turned out"? "Sure enough"?

    [(myl) "In the event of X" has a very different meaning, obviously, and a different distribution among varieties of English — it's almost as frequent in American English (3.15 per million words in COCA) as in British English (10.83 per million words in BNC).]

  5. marie-lucie said,

    June 15, 2013 @ 12:11 pm

    I live in a largely English-speaking part of Canada, and in the event meaning 'as it happened, as it turned out' seems quite familiar to me, as well as in the event of … which indicates a potential happening. Plain in the event comes after an exposition of what had been planned or expected, and it presents what actually happened, whether it had been specifically considered earlier or not.

    Picking up from Cindy's example: We had planned to move graduation indoors in the event of rain, but in the event it was a glorious sunny day and we were able to have the ceremony outside.

  6. michael farris said,

    June 15, 2013 @ 12:18 pm

    I use "in the event" as a sort of conditional too. A couple of googled examples.

    "All residents should have a plan in the event they need to evacuate or ride out the storm at home."

    "You may have to enter into a renewed version of this Agreement, in the event you want to download, install or use a new version of (product name)"

    "We are also appealing to the public to check garden sheds and outhouses in the event (name) has taken shelter there"

    The British use of "in the event" always throws me because I'm expecting a present tense after it.

  7. Levantine said,

    June 15, 2013 @ 12:42 pm

    Regarding 'contemporary' to mean 'of the past time under discussion', I agree with Eric P Smith. I do, however, sometimes use 'contemporaneous' in this sense when I want to be absolutely explicit.

    As for 'in the event', I wrote the phrase recently in something that I had my boyfriend proofread. I'm British and he's American, and he had no idea how to understand the phrase. I considered changing it to something more transatlantically intelligible, but In the event (!), I left it as it was, as I like the sound of it, and anyone with access to a dictionary can look it up if they're really baffled.

  8. SlideSF said,

    June 15, 2013 @ 12:47 pm

    I'm a native speaker of American English, and the phrase "in the event", used in the sense of "as it turned out" does not strike me as odd or even unusual. I have read a lot of English authors from an early age, however, and maybe that's where I became familiar with the expression. In any case, it seems more like a phrase that would appear in written English rather than spoken. Spoken informally it might come out more like "Turns out…"

    On a side note, "in the event" does not sound so different than (from? to?) "in any event". But I take the latter expression to mean more like "to make a long story short…"

  9. Levantine said,

    June 15, 2013 @ 12:53 pm

    SlideSF, I agree with the distinction you draw between 'in the event' and 'in any event'; to me, the latter is another way of saying 'anyway', 'at any rate', 'in any case'.

  10. nka2 said,

    June 15, 2013 @ 3:09 pm

    For some meta-corpus evidence about the current status of contemporary 'present-day': Corpus of Contemporary American English.

  11. GeorgeW said,

    June 15, 2013 @ 5:59 pm

    "In the event" with a past-tense verb is strange to this speaker of American English.

    "In the event" with a future reference is very quite ordinary although a little formal or legalistic.

    I looked through my personal email corpus and got quite a few hits (both to and from).

  12. Steve Morrison said,

    June 15, 2013 @ 7:19 pm

    This usage of "in the event" sounds natural to me, though fairly formal, and I'm American (and have never lived anywhere else).

  13. Carl Offner said,

    June 15, 2013 @ 8:14 pm

    I (a native American English speaker) am familiar with "In the event…" , and it does sound British to me. And (possibly along with Levantine), I believe I was taught — probably in high school — that "contemporary" refers to the present time, while "contemporaneous" refers to events in the past. I've never had occasion to really look into this. Perhaps this is just another one of those phony distinctions many of us learned in school.

  14. Attageek said,

    June 16, 2013 @ 2:59 am

    An interesting read is Neil Gaiman's introduction to his own novel, American Gods.

    A Brit and long-term US resident, Gaiman was trying to write a novel in entirely American registers.

    He describes the endless process of picking out the briticisms. It goes on through his drafts, friends' readings, several levels of professional editing; and even then he believes many may remain to be fixed in a later edition.

    This stuff is not easy, even for the professionals.

  15. Barbara Partee said,

    June 16, 2013 @ 4:27 am

    I see some similarity between 'events' and 'cases' (and all of this reminds me of David Lewis's work on 'quantifying over cases' in examples like "A quadratic equation usually has two different solutions", where "usually" isn't temporal but is about 'instances' or 'cases': Most cases of a quadratic equation are cases where the q. eq. has 2 distinct solutions. (He chose that example to make it clear that "usually" doesn't always have any temporal implications.)
    And we have locutions like "in any case", "in most cases", "in case it rains", "just in case n is even", "in that case". And these seem fairly close to "in any event", "in the event that it rains", and the British "in the event". But it's funny, there's no "in the case" (even in British English, right?), and there's no "in that event".
    I remember being very puzzled in graduate school when I first heard locutions like "The product will be even just in case at least one of the factors is even". I only knew "Let's take an umbrella (just) in case it rains". And I couldn't imagine a product being even as a precaution to take because of the possibility that at least one of the factors might be even!! That seems to be part of a math/logic dialect, having "just in case such-and-such" mean "if and only if such-and-such".
    Anyhow, I think of these 'cases' and 'events' as in some sense "possibilities", and as noted in some earlier comments "in the event that" is considering hypothetical possibilties, and "in the event" means "in the possibility that that turned out to be actual". And similarly "in any event", like "in any case", can be taken to have as a literal meaning something 'unconditional' — no matter what possibility might arise or be the case.
    That's a 'unified' view. But I don't think any unified view can explain why some phrases have become established fixed phrases and others haven't — why we have "in that case" (usually with some antecedent 'case' having been spelled out) but not "in the case" or "in the actual case", and why the Brits but not us have "in the event", and none of us (right?) have "in that event" or "in most events" analogous to "in most cases". Oh, another parallel — "in no case" and "in no event" are both normal, right? (My intuitions are beginning to turn to mush.) I should learn to use those corpus tools! Apologies for still not having done it! (Mark, point me to a 5-minute tutorial sometime? If it takes longer, I may never do it.)

  16. Levantine said,

    June 16, 2013 @ 4:40 am

    Barbara Partee, 'in the event' is not equivalent (or even close) to any of the 'case' idioms you list. 'As the case turned out' would be nearer the mark..

  17. Bertil Wennergren said,

    June 16, 2013 @ 5:56 am

    I'm not a native speaker. I happened to come across the expression "in the event" just yesterday, and was delighted to find this discussion in the morning. The expression was indeed used in a text writted by a British historian (in an audio book). I got the meaning perfectly without any effort, but I did notice that it was (to me) a new expression. Perhaps the context made the meaning especially obvious, but I am surprised that Americans find it difficult to understand.

  18. J.W. Brewer said,

    June 16, 2013 @ 6:57 am

    I will take the minority position and offer as a single datapoint my own reaction that the contested sense of "in the event" doesn't sound odd, confusing, or markedly British to my AmEng ear, but I can't contest the corpus evidence and like SlideSF I may have read so widely that I have no idea when and where I first became familiar with it. What does strike me as British is the use as a near-synonymous idiom (i.e. to mean something like "as it turned out" or "when the prior uncertainty was resolved") of what you might call bare "on the day." I.e., not "on the day of X" or "the day that Y" but the usage seen in e.g. "On the day it was the Indian supporters who were celebrating after Mahendra Singh Dhoni had won the toss and elected to field." (That's in a story about cricket and I think this construction might be especially common in sports-related contexts.)

    [(myl) In fact I share your (lack of?) intutions — my first reaction to to Bert's note was that this use of "in the event" (to mean something like "as it turned out") was rather formal but not especially British. As it turned out, though, I think that we are both wrong.]

  19. Rick Robinson said,

    June 16, 2013 @ 9:18 am

    Another American who doesn't see anything particularly unusual or obviously British about this use of 'in the event.' But like some upthread commenters, I have read a lot of books by British authors, and might have absorbed it from them, without finding it colourful enough to flag as a Briticism.

  20. HP said,

    June 16, 2013 @ 12:28 pm

    Absent the context Mark provides in the OP, if I (as a native AmEng speaker) were to encounter "in the event," in an email or, e.g., a press release, I would regard it as Hinglish, much like "do the needful."

    Is there an equivalent to the British and Amercan corpora for Indian English? Maybe the Hindu Times Online or some other source?

  21. Levantine said,

    June 16, 2013 @ 12:49 pm

    HP, I don't know whether or not the phrase is prevalent in Indian English, but even if it were, it can't be regarded as peculiarly Hinglish in the same way as 'do the needful'.

    Incidentally, I (a Brit) had never encountered your prepositional use of 'absent'. I looked it up in the OED to find it described as 'orig. and chiefly U.S. Law.'

  22. SlideSF said,

    June 17, 2013 @ 1:26 am

    Hmmm… and here I thought "do the needful" was a kind of hip euphemism for having sexual intercourse. Learn something new every day on LL.

  23. Suburbanbanshee said,

    June 17, 2013 @ 3:14 pm

    Deliberately or not, putting Brit terms into your speech is part of American speech. One assumes that for some reason, the hero was either reaching for another register, or had just been watching Masterpiece Theater.

  24. michael farris said,

    June 17, 2013 @ 3:38 pm

    "One assumes…"

    One does, does one?

  25. J.W. Brewer said,

    June 20, 2013 @ 5:45 pm

    Real-world data point. We're using an outside printer for an appellate brief I've been working on (due tomorrow), and I just got emailed page proofs with some proofreader's queries, one of which was an expression of bafflement at my usage in a footnote of the "British" sense of "In the event" discussed in this thread and wondering if I had meant "In any event" (which I had not, as that would in context unhelpfully change the meaning of the sentence). I have blithely decided to assume my intended audience of federal judges and their law clerks is sufficiently cosmopolitan, well-read, and/or Anglophilic that I can get away with leaving it as I had drafted it.

  26. Matt Juge said,

    June 22, 2013 @ 12:32 am

    The sense of "outcome, the way things turned out" is not much of a stretch for a word whose parts mean "out" and "come" (though I definitely do belong to the group of US speakers for whom this use of "in the event" was completely unfamiliar).

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