Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Waiting on Line vs. Waiting in Line

New Yorkers have a verbal provincialism that I've never heard anywhere else in America.

If you're queuing up at Duane Reade or a subway ticket window, you're not waiting in line, you're waiting "on line."

It's even used in official MTA signage.


This usage has become a good bit more confusing in the age of the Internet. "Waiting on line" now makes it sound like you're waiting for a website to load or a friend to join your Google hangout. So maybe it's time for New Yorkers to abandon this tic, charming as they may find it.

If the New York Times is any indication, style mavens have already moved on.

The newspaper published an op-ed on the topic of waiting in line earlier this month, with nary an "on line" to be found.

From the piece:
Americans spend roughly 37 billion hours each year waiting in line. The dominant cost of waiting is an emotional one: stress, boredom, that nagging sensation that one’s life is slipping away.
My only nagging sensation is the feeling that the MTA needs to fix its signs.