June 12, 2013 § Leave a comment

Some years ago when I was a member of an online craft group which consisted almost entirely of North Americans, I could not help but be struck by their use of the word share. In my childhood, I associated share strongly with a bag of sweets or some good thing to eat. If you owned the sweets, you did not want to share them, but if someone else owned the sweets, you certainly wanted your share.

There was a lot of sharing in my online group, naturally not of sweets. Bad and good news were shared. Someone might report a sad piece of history or news, and add perhaps the words, I just wanted to share.

Share? But I do not want a share of that, I would find myself thinking. I still had, and have, my childish notions of what share means. Bad news is not something to share. How can you share something no one wants a share of?

You can, of course, tell them your bad news.

However, more and more people in the UK are sharing things. I can’t get used to it. Last night, at a talk here in London, the speaker, having told us something useful added, ‘I just wanted to share that with you.’  Is a little extra credit attached to a speaker who shares something with us rather than merely tells us something?

I agree with Larry Trask (an American) about this usage:

Share (with) Only this morning, the electronic question list on language to whose panel I belong received a question from a young American woman, who asked us ’Could you share with me your thoughts on this matter?’ This eccentric use of share is predominantly American, though perhaps not unknown elsewhere. It sounds silly and it should be avoided. Prefer a blunter verb, such as tell or advise. Our correspondent would have been wiser to write ‘Can you tell me what you think about this?’

From Mind The Gaffe* (2001) by R L Trask

* When you get off an underground train at some London stations, an automated announcement is made (or shared), ‘Please mind the gap.’  There is a space between the platform edge and the train.

I don’t think that Americans tend to say ‘mind’ when they mean ‘watch out for’ or ‘pay attention to’.


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