anyways etc.

From Wilson Gray in ADS-L yesterday, referring to the ZDNet site about Windows 8:

You click on “Show Anyways?” and deleted posts from Below threshold are displayed.

This is Show anyways? for standard Show anyway? — anyways with an “excrescent -s” (well attested in non-standard English), here in an “official” (as Gray put it) document.

Background on this blog, in a survey of “extra -s” in English, here:

3. adverbial -S (an old adverbial genitive): always, nowadays, besides; towards, inwards, outwards, backwards, forwards,…; sideways, whiles ‘while’, non-standard anyways, non-standard aways ‘much, far’ (variation between –s and zero for several of these)
(discussion by ML 7/28/10: Ask Language Log: “acrosst” (here), AZ 1/25/11: acrossed (link), ML 2/21/11: X-ward(s) (link))

Extended discussion on anyways by Gabe Doyle on his blog, here:

The historical source of anyways is as the adverbial genitive of any way, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. In this regard, anyways is analogous to always (genitive of all way(s)) or sometimes (genitive or plural of some time). The difference is that for the latter two words, the genitive version solidly beat out the bare form. Alway is basically gone from English now, and sometime lingers on as an adjective in only a limited, often literary, role (e.g., there is a blog titled Life and Times of a Sometime Poet).**

For whatever reason, in the battle between anyway and anyways, the script was flipped and the base form took the crown. Anyways was for a while just as common as anyway; Google Books shows the two staying pretty close up to around 1860, when anyway begins its rise. There are examples of famous authors using anyways even after this point, such as Joseph Conrad in 1902, but society had by and large turned its back on anyways.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary of English Usage cites the Dictionary of American Regional English to note that anyways is apparently strongest in the South and South Midland (both U.S.) dialect regions. That would explain my usage of anyways from my South Midland youth.

… The point is that condemning anyways for informality is missing the point, when anyway isn’t especially formal itself. The point, to quote the MWDEU, is this:

“None of the senses of anyways are standard contemporary English, but you should not conclude that they are substandard”

As for anywheres, what MWDEU says is that anywheres is “primarily a speech form and seldom appears in print outside of fiction” (p. 107). It’s apparently receding, though DARE has a 1981 quote. On the history: it’s

attested in the U.S. from the late 18th century. It appears to have been originally a New England term that spread. (p. 108)

MWDEU also has entries for (non-standard) nowheres and somewheres.

Doyle’s been working on an “S-series”, on various kinds of extra -s. The story so far:

S-Series I: Anyway(s) [02/03/11]
S-Series II: Backward(s) [06/14/11]
S-Series III: Toward(s) [08/29/11]
S-Series IV: Beside(s) [12/07/11]

4 Responses to “anyways etc.”

  1. John Lawler Says:

    One of the very first aue posts I made, long long ago, was about toward(s) and beside(s): http://www.umich.edu/~jlawler/aue/besides.html

  2. Jan Freeman Says:

    I’ve always known of and never used “anyways,” but my impression is that it’s having a bit of a vogue. My daughter came back from college (in my native Great Lakes region) with two noticeable new speech features: “anyways” and a sounded T in “often.” A Boston friend also picked up “anyways” a few years ago, I suspect from her teenage daughters. I wonder if anyone else has noticed these as spoken-language fads — or is it just the recency illusion?

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      The Google Ngram Viewer shows a modest uptick in anyways since 2000. The hits include a 2007 Berkeley Ph.D. dissertation in political science (Whose Market is it Anyways: Making Multiple Markets in the Welfare State), a section heading in Andrew Huang’s 2003 Hacking the Xbox: An Introduction to Reverse Engineering (“Who Needs Security, Anyways?”), and the like — plus lots of vernacular dialogue in fiction and some usage discussions (warning against the form). Sentence-finally in rhetorical WH-questions seems to be one of its niches in expository prose.

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