Monday, October 29, 2012

visiting

I've been doing 'Untranslatables October' on Twitter for the second time (made slightly easier this year by the fact that I've given up tweeting on weekends). I'll do a summary at the end of the month.

An American 'Untranslatable' was visit with, which had been suggested by Ros Clarke. I defined it as 'to pay a social call and chat with someone, esp. if you're having a good catch-up.'

Ros then asked "do you think that paying the social call is an important part of visit with?" No and yes, I would say. For instance, one could say

We visited with each other for a while after we met on the pathway.

But if there is a social call, it is the caller who is doing the visiting. At least, that's my intuition:

He came over and visited with me.      Sounds normal to me.
He came over and I visited with him.  Sounds weird to me.
I went over and he visited with me.     Sounds really weird to me. 

But one could also say:
He came over and we visited with each other.

It's always worth mentioning when things that Americans say are actually British in origin, and the 'pay a social call' sense of visit with is one of them. The OED marks it as Now U.S.  Interestingly, it's apparently not from the days before the British settled in the 'new world'. In other words, it's evidence that Americans didn't just start importing newfangled Britishisms (see my last post!) in the 21st century. The first example is from a letter in 1850, the second is from a major piece of British literature:
1871   ‘G. Eliot’ Middlemarch (1872) I. i. i. 8   The small group of gentry with whom he visited.

Besides visiting with there's also with-less intransitive visit, which is 100% American and just about chatting. In that sense, you and your friend could visit for hours, meaning that you talked with each other for a long time. If the subject of this 'chat' visit is just one of the chatting parties, then you can have a with in order to identify who you're talking with.

I searched for examples of visited with in the Corpus of Contemporary American English. There are 282 of them, though some are not this visited with, but things like the town he visited with his mother or visited with great interest. I looked at the first page of them (100). Most of the examples do involve someone coming to where someone else is and talking with them:
And the White House made a surprise stop for barbecue in Washington, but left the restaurant a surprise when lunch finished on Wednesday, an unpaid tab. President Obama visited with service members and local barbers...
There's only one example in the 282 with a reciprocal pronoun (each other; no cases of one another).

But there's one case where the visited-with person is the one who moved:
We're speaking with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai of Zimbabwe. We visited with him on his visit to the United States.
 ...though in this case, it may very well be that the radio people (we) visited the place where Tsvangirai was staying, and therefore were the 'movers'. They area also the 'movers' in that they are the ones who sought the interview. The sentence certainly gives me the image that the NPR reporter went to Tsvangirai's hotel or the Zimbabwean embassy or something, though it could be the case that they talked on the phone. In other words, when visit with is used non-reciprocally, I do get the image that the subject of the sentence acted in order to get the conversation started--either by moving to where the other person is or by setting up the meeting. Perhaps I've got that connotation more strongly than other Americans do.

Finally, a note on the noun visit. Most uses of the noun visit are general English (i.e. not UK- or US- or anywhere-specific). But one can shift the 'chat' verb visit into a noun, and get things like We had a nice visit over dinner/the phone/coffee. This is not something one would hear in the UK. Instead you might (informally) have a good natter (which Collins English Dictionary defines as 'prolonged idle chatter or gossip').

91 comments:

Just One Boomer (Suzanne) said...

The only American I've ever heard use "natter" was Spiro Agnew, Richard Nixon's disgraced Vice President who was forced to resign the vice presidency in 1973 after pleading guilty to corruption for tax evasion--a plea deal that also allowed him to avoid criminal prosecution for taking bribes. Actually, he used "nattering". He accused the media of being "nattering nabobs of negativism". The quote is widely attributed to his speechwriter, William Saffire.

Roger Owen Green said...

I always associate "visit with" as small town US, maybe rural as well, and not necessarily contemporary in usage, because I have not heard it in quite a while, though I did while growing up in upstate NY, US.

Krista said...

In my experience (western US), those who still talk about "visiting" or "visiting with" are usually grandparents and preachers.
I wouldn't make a distinction between the arriver and the arrivee, either could "visit with" the other.

woollythinker said...

Untranslatable into British maybe, but there's a lovely Afrikaans word meaning the same thing - kuier. I wonder how many other languages share this?

Unfairly, for me missing the word "kuier" goes along with missing the experience. Life in London isn't conducive to the kind of relaxed, spontaneous visit I'd call by that name. So it feels like the word doesn't exist because people just don't do that... Though I realise that's not the case.

Mrs Redboots (Annabel Smyth) said...

Do Americans ever "pay a visit" as we do in the UK? Or used to - these days it is more often a euphemism for going to the loo/bathroom.

For me (Southern BrE), visiting is the physical thing - I would say that I am visiting my parents this weekend, for instance. If I were to have a long chat with my father, that would not be visiting with him, although it would have happened during the visit.

All very confusing, especially if the US sense was once British - it is now so very obsolete as to have dropped out of memory, I think.

ros said...

I'm interested to hear that some people think of 'visit with' as old-fashioned. The time I spent in the US was 2006-7 in Philadelphia - and I heard it from people in their 20's to 80's.

Yulia said...

That's interesting, I guess I haven't heard enough English during my career as an ESL teacher (I am a Russian) - this is the first time I've come across 'visit with'!

srobalino said...

@Ros I'd agree with Krista (I'm also from the Western US - coastal California) and would say that 'visit with' would definitely be something heard from an older generation or perhaps non-native to the west. As Roger said, it does sound more small town US/rural though much of California could be classed this. To me it is the same sense of 'to call' in the UK where this generally means going around to someone's house ('calling in') versus making a phone call as it typically does in the US. Whenever I hear someone say they will 'call in' I think it sounds really old-fashioned and something my grandmother might've said. It sounds very formal.

biochemist said...

We visited with each other for a while after we met on the pathway.

Is the AmE 'visit with' related to 'meet with' in the sense of having a conversation, compared with meeting on the pathway(above)? I don't think BrE uses 'meet with' at all comfortably, except perhaps to arrange an appointment to meet someone.
In N America I heard of 'telephone visiting' which seemed bizarre to me until I understood the usage described here. I also agree that 'call' is ambiguous - if Bob called last night, did he drop in for a chat or did he phone?

lynneguist said...

I don't know that I can say that anything's related to anything else, but I have written about meet with.

I've been listening a lot lately to British folk complaining about Americans 'leaving off' prepositions ('debate' and 'protest' come to mind), where I've been asked if Americans don't like verb+preposition combinations. Clearly not, since we have all these 'with's that the British don't have...

Mindy said...

I am not sure why debate or protest would need a preposition... Could you explain that for this AmE?

lynneguist said...

See: http://separatedbyacommonlanguage.blogspot.co.uk/2010/03/protesting-prepositions.html



Mindy said...

ahhh, Got it thanks :)

David Crosbie said...

For this Brit, visit, visiting, visitor are essentially to do with place. Yes I can speak of visiting somebody — but only at the place where they are normally found.

This is like Lynne's constraint against speaking of visiting with someone at one's own home. It goes further — I can't speak of visiting somebody at a temporary location such as a hotel.

Needless to say, I can visit somebody in complete silence — in a hospital bed, for example.

(A hospital is different from a hotel. It's a place with arrangements for visitors. If you meet someone in a hotel where they're staying, the location is irrelevant to the purpose of meeting.)

Moreover, I 'visit' places far more often than I 'visit' people (I'd rather say 'go to see' or 'look up'). And I don't chat to places.

In my speech visit with is impossible because the notion of visit involves an intentional agent moving to a place, which by nature lacks intention. There may be people at the place, but their intentions are irrelevant.

marek said...

I am not sure that the George Eliot quotation is quite an instance of the usage being described. Here it is clearly a description of a social circle, the people acknowledged as being sufficiently close in social status to be recognised as acquaintances, and thus with whom visits are paid and received. I would be very surprised to see 'visit with' being used to describe a specific actual visit (still less a conversation), rather than in that more general sense.

Bill said...

This BritE is very accustomed to visiting people or places, but 'visit with' is certainly much more AmE to my ears, although I have heard Americans of of all ages use it when referring to visits they made or received, the latter sounding decidedly odd to me.

I think a possible, rather old-fashioned, BritE equivalent might be 'call on' - when I was much younger I was given printed 'calling cards' (I'm not THAT old, I'm talking about the early 1970s) - these just had one's name printed on them in raised print - they did not have an address and it was definitely 'infradig' for them to have a telephone number printed on them; the person you were 'calling on' or who was calling on you might not be known personally, but would be known by name (as belonging to the same social circle) and the visit/call may even have been pre-arranged, or it might not. They were used mainly for first visits of a social nature where the person who answered the door, a butler or other similar staff, would convey the card to the person whom one was calling on, usually on a salver. I haven't made such visits, or indeed received them, using the 'calling card' system for at least 25 years, but before that in my circles it was used pretty regularly.

David Crosbie said...

Marek

Here it is clearly a description of a social circle, the people acknowledged as being sufficiently close in social status to be recognised as acquaintances, and thus with whom visits are paid and received

Surely the poorer residents of Middlemarch and the surrounding villages would have a number of people — relatives, friends, acquaintances, business associates — outside the inner circle of neighbours but with whom they were on visiting terms. The difference between them and social élite is that they would go to see these people irregularly, perhaps very seldom indeed. So they wouldn't speak of 'visiting (with) '— although that's effectively what they would be doing.

I would be very surprised to see 'visit with' being used to describe a specific actual visit... rather than in that more general sense.

I think we're in the realm of grammar here. The Past Simple can denote habitual activity as in
the small group of gentry with whom he visited.
But it can also denote one or more event as in the later (1927) quotation:
Perryville, Missouri, where we visited with some of Klink's friends.
Prior to that there's a 1902 quotation:
Almost every evening nowadays the Dearborn girls came..to visit with the Cresslers.
They didn't come each time in order to be in the habit of visiting; they came in order to visit that one time.

All the subsequent quotes in the OED for visit with denote one-off visits, mostly with Past Simple visited. A nice quote from a Malcolm Lowry letter makes the British~American contrast explicit:
Margerie is flying..to visit—to visit with, I believe I should say— her family for a week..

David Crosbie said...

I think the calling card system that Bill describes killed off the use identified by marek of visit with in 'polite society' after the time of Ruskin (the earliest quote is from a letter by Effie Ruskin) and Elliot. There was no need for both visit with and call on and fashion, for no discernible reason, favoured the latter.

However, an analogous with survived in the expression dine with which could denote a social relationship. As Lady Bracknell said of the Liberal Unionists:
Oh, they count as Tories. They dine with us. Or come in the evening, at any rate.

Dru said...

As others have said, I would agree that 'visit with' doesn't exist in modern UK English. It sounds odd.

In American English, can one visit a place as David Crosbie and Bill have pointed out that we normally do in English English?

Also, can one visit a person, without a 'with'? If so, what is the context, and what difference does it make to the sense whether the 'with' is there or not?

If in the US, you go to see someone who is in hospital, what do you say?

Ben in Bénin said...

@Krista and @srobalino - I agree with both of you about the old-fashioned nature of "visiting (with)". It's something I would use (30-year-old Texas transplant in Virginia who's spent a lot of time in North Carolina "visiting" family), but I wouldn't talk about "visiting with" friends as much as I would elders or people of a higher status. "Visiting" implies, to me, more polite conversation, rather than catching up with someone close - so no overly personal information, sarcasm, etc. that would feature prominently in conversation with friends. For that, I would use "talk" or "chat."

"Visiting" also brings to mind how relatives and friends would stop by Granny's house in North Carolina regularly whenever my family was staying there. In that case, there's no difference between "visiting" and "calling on." Of course, they would be "visiting" while they were "visiting"...

Lynn said...

@Dru, we either say we're going to "see someone in the hospital" or we're going to "visit someone in the hospital". While we're there, we'll no doubt "visit with them" or "have a nice visit with them".

David Crosbie said...

Since I have access to a concordance of Blues lyrics, I thought I'd look up visit. In a pretty representative sample of prewar record lyrics, there are four uses. I wonder how these composed utterances by Southern Blacks seventy or eighty years ago compare with current speech.

Seven times you hear the seven sisters : will visit me [all] in my sleep
And they said I won't have no more trouble : and said I'll live twelve days in a week


Now if you're ever in Dallas boy : please visit old Elm Street
You can see the snuff-sniffing women : like a police on his beat


Lord I lost my papa : and my dear mama too
Lord I'm going to quit my bad way of living : and visit the Sunday school

Now my bluebird left me the other day : people and I ain't seen her since
Now then I believe she gone to Washington : you know to visit the president


I make that one visitation, two places (one of them perhaps for habitual attendance), and one person (possibly for a chat).

PW said...

@Dru - Yes, in the US we can visit a place. For visit vs. visit with: Visit would probably refer more to the occaision, visit with to the conversation. (Simplification, of course.) As to hospitals, I could say either visit or see someone in the hospital. My husband says he would probably use visit.

Mrs Redboots (Annabel Smyth) said...

Dru, as I understand it, the Americans do go visiting, like we do, but they also use the term in the sense of having a private conversation with someone, perhaps in a wider context - for instance, if I visited my aunt's family and had a long chat to a cousin while there, I would, were I American, probably think that I had had a nice visit with my cousin. I think - perhaps my American friends will correct me if I am mistaken here.

David Crosbie said...

I've just received a circular from Waitrose which brings out another factor in the meaning of visit.

P.S. We know that you don't usually shop in a store that serves hot drinks, but we thought you'd like to know in case you visit a store that does.

So, you 'visit' a place that you don't usually go to. Which reminds me that we make a similar distinction for places where you're usually located: I don't live here, I'm just visiting.

Mindy said...

I do not visit stores. I shop in them. (American)

Mindy said...

Example : I am going to the Coffee Shop.
I am not visiting the Coffee shop.

But I might visit with my Friend over coffee at the Coffee Shop.

David Crosbie said...

Mindy

I do not visit stores. I shop in them.

OK, but how would you translate the message?

We know that you don't usually shop in a store that serves hot drinks, but we thought you'd like to know in case you visit a store that does.

Mrs Redboots (Annabel Smyth) said...

Mindy: I might visit with my Friend over coffee at the Coffee Shop.

Whereas I might visit the coffee shop to catch up with my friend!

Mindy said...

David says,
We know that you don't usually shop in a store that serves hot drinks, but we thought you'd like to know in case you visit a store that does.

I would probably just say "in case you go to a store that does." But I could possibly use the term visit in that sense.

Mindy said...

Mrs. Redboots, I might say catch up with my friend also, especially if it is a friend I have not seen in a long while.

Mindy said...

Mrs. Redboots, I might say catch up with my friend also, especially if it is a friend I have not seen in a long while.

David Crosbie said...

It gets better. In another part of the circular, Waitrose write:
Next time you visit us in store, keep your eyes peeled for your exclusive Waitrose savings - available on top of our existing promotions.

And, come to think of it, it's commonplace for British stores to write about offers on your next visit.

Mindy said...

Yes I would hear that in advertisements here in America also. But I would not typically use visit in my speech.
I would say trip to the store, or shopping trip.
But mostly I would just say I went to such in such store, or I am going to such in such store (or the store).

But I understand it when someone says they visited a store. There would not be a misunderstanding. I would get what they were saying.

David Crosbie said...

Mindy

I would not typically use visit in my speech.

That's because you wouldn't be seeing it from the store's point of view.

In British English entirely and in American English partly, the notion of visiting is asymmetrical.

This may reflect
• comparative importance of visitor and visited
We don't usually say
The store was visited by me last week.
But it's quite easy to say
The store was visited by Queen Victoria in 1899.
From the stores point of view, Queen Victoria is more important.

• comparative importance of visit to visitor and visited
ME: I went to that Waitrose. I could have gone to Sainsbury's — it wouldn't have mattered.
WAITROSE: He visited our Morningside store. He could have gone to a Sainsbury's or a Tesco, but he didn't. That matters.

I think the reason that visit with sound so bizarre to my ears is denotes a symmetrical act. Two agents of (possibly) equal importance engaged in something of (possibly) equal importance to both of them. It just doesn't sound right.

David Crosbie said...

I've just realised that the place notion may a third asymmetry in visit that may be absent in visit with.

In the BrE notion of visit, the visitor moves to the location of the act of visiting; the visited doesn't.

I'm not sure I understand what happens with the AmE not ion of visit with. I get the impression that both parties may move to the location of the visit. If so, that makes the notion even more alien.

There's considerable historical depth to this. The first listed senses of visit in the OED all begin with the word come.

The very first use is of God coming to give comfort. And, because it happens in the Bible, we're familiar with God or an angel visiting someone in a dream. Hence the blues singer Funny Paper Smith recounting how seven voodoo priestesses visited him in a dream.

lynneguist said...

David: the point I was trying to make (in my meandering way) was that there is an asymmetry in the 'social call' meaning of visit with, but that that's much weaker in the 'chat with' version--which is why you can get a reciprocal pronoun (each other) with it in the description of a single event.

David Crosbie said...

Sorry, Lynne, I read you post once and remembered only some of the subtleties. Then I read a succession of narrowly focussed postings which brought home to me that my reaction to visit with is unusually strong. It's n the nature of a blog like this, I suppose — the recent and narrow obscures one's recall of the broad but distant.

I also find that the utter alien-ness of visit with made it hard to read with proper appreciation your analysis of the different AmE uses. The fact that it can mean 'chat' was such amazing news that I didn't see how you were fitting it into the general picture.

If I were still a practising teacher, I'd be wondering whether visit and visit with should be taught as two distinct verbs. Certainly, there's a real problem for the writers of dictionaries for learners of English.

Little Black Sambo said...

Every time I pass a church
I pay a little visit,
So when at last I reach heaven's gates
The Lord won't say, "Who is it?"

Little Black Sambo said...

Every time I pass a church
I pay a little visit,
So when at last I reach heaven's gates,
The Lord won't say, "Who is it?"

Little Black Sambo said...

Every time I pass a church
I pay a little visit,
So when at last I reach heaven's gates,
The Lord won't say, "Who is it?"

Little Black Sambo said...

Every time I pass a church
I pay a little visit,
So when at last I reach heaven's gates,
The Lord won't say, "Who is it?"

Little Black Sambo said...

Every time I pass a church
I pay a little visit,
So when at last I reach heaven's gates,
The Lord won't say, "Who is it?"

Little Black Sambo said...

Every time I pass a church
I pay a little visit,
So when at last I reach heaven's gates,
The Lord won't say, "Who is it?"

Mindy said...

So if I said I went to visit a Friend. Would the BrE speakers think I just went to their house, but just sat there and did not talk with that friend? If so that seem strange to me.

If I said that I was going to visit a friend, and then the friend was not there, then I would say something like

Well, I went to visit my Friend, but she was not home.

But if she had been home, I would have said,

I went and visited my Friend today.

Mindy said...

woops left this part off,

on the last example,

I visited my Friend today.

The fact that we "chated", talked and got caught up, is implied.

David Crosbie said...

Mindy

I went to visit a Friend. Would the BrE speakers think I just went to their house, but just sat there and did not talk with that friend?

We'd simply think that you went to their house. Whether you talked or sat in silence is immaterial.

The only reason we'd have for assuming that you talked is our non-linguistic knowledge that conversation during visits is the norm. The expectation is easily dispelled:

I visited him yesterday, but we didn't have anything to say to each other. We just sat in embarrassed silence.

Mindy said...

David said-The only reason we'd have for assuming that you talked is our non-linguistic knowledge that conversation during visits is the norm.

thats what Isaid, it is implied by the meaning of the word visit.

oxford dictionary

1 go to see and spend time with (someone) socially.

I do not think I have ever spent time socially with someone and not had a conversation. (unless they were in a coma) There for the word visit implies that a conversation takes place.

Mrs Redboots (Annabel Smyth) said...

Indeed it does, but I believe that in US English it is the conversation itself that is implied by the word "visit", whereas in British English it is the fact that you got up off your chair and actually went somewhere. If you came round to mine and we had a long chat, *I* didn't have a nice visit, although you might have done! Whereas as I understand it, in American English I would have had a pleasant visit, no?

David Crosbie said...

Mindy

our non-linguistic knowledge that conversation during visits is the norm.

thats what I said, it is implied by the meaning of the word visit.


No, Mindy, what I said is not not what you said. You said that it IS implied. I said that it is NOT implied. The only reason I'd be a teeny bit surprised if the visit passed in silence is nothing to do with language and the meaning of words. That's why I called it 'nonlinguistic knowledge'.

oxford dictionary

1 go to see and spend time with (someone) socially.


That's an American dictionary, Mindy. To the vast majority of British readers, it's out-and-out nonsense.

OK, we all conceded that you have this different meaning in American English. Please accept that for us it's very strange indeed.

One purpose of Lynne's Blog is to make us aware of differences on either side of the Atlantic. Not much chance if you disbelieve what we tell you about British English.

PS Not all BrE/AmE differences make us excited. Very few bother me at all. This visit difference, believe me, is a spectacularly contrast, an hard-to-credit shock to the system.

Mindy said...

The oxford Dictionary I got that definition from was A British English Dictionary.

Mindy said...

Mrs. Redboots, yes both! :)

Mindy said...

David, I do accept that we have different meanings and understandings.

I meant no offense. I was just trying to understand your meaning better, and explain ours a little better to you.

I am sorry for the misunderstanding of this conversation.

Anonymous said...

From reading the comments, I've come to the conclusion that I am in the minority among American English speakers in that I think of "visit" as only meaning "going to see (someone/something)", but I think I'm with most others in that I tend to see "visit with" as having a slightly different meaning.

A question Mrs Redboots asked Mindy caught my eye, though:

If you came round to mine and we had a long chat, *I* didn't have a nice visit, although you might have done! Whereas as I understand it, in American English I would have had a pleasant visit, no?

My answer would have been, "No. You didn't have a nice visit, but we might have had one and I definitely had one." I would have explained a very fuzzy idea that Mrs Redboots enjoyed my visit, and so I could say that we had a nice visit (we both enjoyed my visit to her home), but that she didn't visit anyone, so it couldn't be said that she alone had a nice visit.

Does anyone else make this sort of distinction?

Anonymous in NJ

flatlander said...

Yes to what Anonymous in NJ said. The physical movement visit is undertaken by the nonresident party, whereas the conversational visited is undertaken by both/all party in unison. My mother (AmE, in her 60s, raised in a major city in Texas) says things like, "You kids go play now; the adults are going to visit" in the course of a multi-day family gathering. My sister in law (40-ish, raised in upstate New York) says it too but I think she got it from Mom.

flatlander said...

Sorry for the typos. The mobile version makes it very difficult to edit.

Richard Hartzell said...

As an American who isn't quite sure whether he ever uses "visited with" (but is certain his 91-year-old mother once did, when she was younger and got out and about more often), I confess I've been reading these comments with astonishment.

It appears that not only does this expression not exist in BrE, but that it's very meaning utterly mystifies Britons. Thus I've been treated to analyses involving asymmetry and intentional agents and other such highfalutin terms that seem intended to discredit the term as illogical and thus somehow without merit. To those Britons I'd like to mention that the French have no word for “eighty” and have hobbled along for centuries using “four twenties” as a crutch. To my way of thinking it makes as much sense to pick apart the illogic or nonsensicality of “visit with” as it does the linguistic inadequacy of “four twenties”.

OK: Let me pause for a moment to apologize/apologise to Britons everywhere for being so cantankerous.

But I’ll try, perhaps fruitlessly, to communicate the merit and meaning of "visit with" as opposed to "visit" alone—though as flatlander just pointed out, in the American south one might say "You kids go play now; the adults are going to visit", for which usage I’ll assert “visit” and “visit with” convey essentially identical meanings.

The all-important preposition “with”, when added to “visit”, carries two important understandings: informality and intimacy. Thus one does not “visit with” strangers, disaffected ex-spouses, bosses, or those with whom one has made an appointment, such as a tax accountant or psychiatrist. It’s an expression reserved for friends, relatives, and neighbors. It implies familiarity if not tenderness, though one might use it politely to refer to a visit to spend time with someone, as a neighbor or hospital patient, with whom you’re not in truth especially close.

On the other hand it’s entirely possible to use it in the past tense to convey retrospectively that what began as a nonintimate encounter—say, with a store clerk—became unexpectedly warm and friendly. Example: “I bought this sweater at the corner store and ended up visiting with the sales clerk for half an hour. Turns out we both grew up in the same neighborhood in St. Louis and she also used to go out hunting for fireflies on warm Summer evenings.”

If there’s no functional equivalent in BrE, we can all be bemused or puzzled but it surely won’t help to parse the verb “visit” nine ways from Sunday in hopes of prying/prising loose, like a gem locked in a box, a meaning that will somehow serve as a bridge to universal understanding.

Apparently not all discrepancies between AmE or BrE can be resolved with a glossary that tells us that “hood” means “bonnet” or “elevator” means “lift” or “visit with” kind of means “visit”, sort of.

It’s really quite an exquisite conundrum, these unexpected differences. In this case I guess I'm lucky to have a native speaker's understanding of this otherwise opaque and untranslatable term. Next time I visit I'm sure I won't be so lucky.

Mindy said...

Nicely Put Richard!

Thanks for that. I am in the St. Louis Area. I must admit, I do not usually put the with on it, but it is not unheard of.

I am baffled by the Idea that if I visit someone, I am the only one who visited. It is a shared experience. Both people are visiting, it makes no difference who went to who's house.

rushingtoread said...

To add another (possibly odd) dimension to the American use of the word "visit," I have to mention that, as an elementary school teacher, I frequently used the word "visiting" as a euphemism for "talking to/with another student during class," and I don't think I was the only teacher to ever do so! (For example, I might have written in the comments section on a chatty child's report card (or said during a parent/teacher conference) that a child "visits a lot during class." I clearly didn't mean to imply that the child was getting up and going anywhere; I simply meant there was a lot of chatting going on, and saying "visiting" was a lot nicer than "Your kid just can't seem to shut up!"

Anonymous said...

Mindy - The British find it equally baffling that you can visit without leaving home. To us, the visitee has "received a visit from X".

Richard - Actually the French do have a perfectly good word for 80, octante, they just choose not to use it, although French-speaking Belgians and Swiss do.

Kate (Derby, UK)

David Crosbie said...

Richard Harzell

It appears that not only does this expression not exist in BrE, but that it's very meaning utterly mystifies Britons.

Yes, I think we've finally all accepted that. I find it an interesting fact. Of all the hundred of words and expressions discussed on Lynne's blog, visit stands out in the stark differences in some meanings between the two varieties.

This alone suggests to me that there's something worth analysing. What (for me) cries out even louder for analysis is that the view on the opposite side of the Atlantic seems so disturbingly alien.

Whether one view or the other is objectively valid is (for me) a meaningless question. Both are valid. Each has its own rationale. Those rationales are interestig.

Thus I've been treated to analyses involving asymmetry and intentional agents and other such highfalutin terms that seem intended to discredit the term as illogical and thus somehow without merit.

I'm sorry it seems that way to you Richard. Actually, that isn't the intention at all. There's nothing illogical in your American use of visit — it's just that it's based on a premise which we don't recognise in Britain. The premise is by definition valid for American speakers — at least it is if you base your premises on what speakers actually say, not on what pundits claim they should say.

The reciprocal visit with existed for a brief while in British English, as Lynne pointed out. But then we lost it. There's no trace of it in popular speech and not even a memory of it.

Because visiting is a non-reciprocal concept, we've not been open to the shift in American usage from 'go and see' to 'meet up with' to 'chat with'.

When we hear these American uses explained, it's a shock to the system. Nothing more. Yes, there are people in Britain, especially in England, who do believe that it's 'our' language, and so 'you' should leave it alone, but — unless Lynne needs something to argue against — you won't find that sort of thing on this Blog

Mrs Redboots (Annabel Smyth) said...

Gragh, I just posted a comment and Blogger ate it!

For example, I might have written in the comments section on a chatty child's report card (or said during a parent/teacher conference) that a child "visits a lot during class."

My instinctive understanding of that would be that the child in question has a small bladder and has to pay frequent visits to the cloakroom!

Do Americans "pay a visit" the way we do - not just to the loo/bathroom, although that, too. "I must pay a visit to the supermarket" (slightly ironic, I think, and probably obsolescent in a non-ironic context).

ros said...

Well, I'm happy to have sparked such debate and also to see that I'm not the only Brit to have found this American usage confusing! I think the confusion is because there is so much overlap in the meaning of 'visit' (BrE) and 'visit with' (AmE), made all the more confusing when some Americans apparently use 'visit' rather than 'visit with', so there's no distinction at all.

Prepositions are powerful things.

ros said...

@David Crosbie

"oxford dictionary

1 go to see and spend time with (someone) socially.


That's an American dictionary, Mindy. To the vast majority of British readers, it's out-and-out nonsense."

That is perfectly normal British English. I visit my grandmother: I go to see her and spend time with her socially. That meaning is common to UK and US.

BUT that is not the meaning of 'visit with' in the US, and it is not the meaning under discussion in Lynne's post.

biochemist said...

Ros, I think David Crosbie summarised it very well in his most recent post (see above).
The Brits who have posted above do appreciate the AmE use of 'visit with' to signify social occasions ranging from a formal 'call' to a chat on the footpath or around the barbeque, and I have experienced a 'telephone visit' (in Canada). We are just astonished that this usage seems to have remained uniquely North American, unlike 'meet with', which some Brits occasionally use, even though it doesn't have a special additional meaning.

Mindy said...

@David Crosbie

I Hope you got my apology message. I am sincerely sorry for the misunderstanding in our back in forth. I was just trying to bring more understanding of each others use of the word Visit.

Risking sounding too needy :) I would appreciate an acknowledgement of my apology, even if it is not accepted by you. Though I really hope it is, as it is Sincerely meant.

Thanks, Mindy

Unknown said...

As someone who is neither old nor rural (though certainly not a west coaster) I would definitely say visit with. Actually this post came at the perfect time since I was taking note of people saying visit with and caught this gem from last week. You finish visiting with Judy then come visit with me about your vol calls. The person who said this to me was a Michigander in her mid 20s.

I do think there's some social asymmetry element visit with. I be more inclined to use it for a pleasant chat with someone older than me than I would a peer. But I'd also use it as a mild command to come talk to me with someone of any age.

David Crosbie said...

Mindy

No need for you to apologise. I never thought for a moment that you were being aggressive or disrespectful.I f I gave that impression, I'm very sorry.

The moral is that differences in usage aren't always trivial and amusing. Just occasionally a word like visit comes up and seems to challenge our personal ideas of what is English.

Mindy said...

Thank you David.

I did get the impression that I had upset you somehow. And I did not intend to at all.

I do not feel like either one's usage is more correct then the others, just different. It was a head scratcher for me :), That's all.

Thanks for replying. I really appreciate it.

Mindy said...

whoops, should have said,

I do not feel like either one's usage is more correct than the others

Dru said...

Thinking of 'meet with', we (England) don't normally say that. It's not totally unknown, but we normally just say 'meet' with a direct object, or 'meet up with', which is slightly slangy but a bit more purposeful than 'meet'. You can either arrange to 'meet' or bump into someone by chance and 'meet' them, but if you 'meet up with', you've arranged it.

My question. In US English, is 'meet with' more planned, intended, than just 'meet'? Or does 'meet' always take 'with'? And does US English use 'meet up with'? If so, how does it differ in meaning from 'meet' and 'meet with'? Or is 'meet up with' British only?

lynneguist said...

May I suggest having the 'meet with' discussion at the 'meet with' blog post?

David Crosbie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Crosbie said...

1. On that meet with thread, there are two observations that it's not as strange to British speakers as visit with.

2. It's just occurred to me what happens if you turn them into nouns.

a meeting with Fred is fine in BrE
a visit with Fred is weird in BrE — unless the speaker and Fred made a visit somewhere together
a visit to Fred would be normal in BrE

I can also say
a meeting at Fred's
This would usually mean a formal/planned meeting of an unstated number of people at Fred's house. But in the right context, it could mean what you Americans seems to call a visit. Thus:

I haven't seen Fred since our last meeting at his place.

rachel said...

Referrring to the Eliot /Austen class meanings of visit, I would still claim that it has the UK English meaning of pay a visit to their location. There was a social hierarchy of whether you called or were called upon. And in such a context, there is no requirement to have any conversation with the person you visited at all.....

David Crosbie said...

Rachel

Referrring to the Eliot /Austen class meanings of visit, I would still claim that it has the UK English meaning of pay a visit to their location.

I'm sure all British speakers agree with you about the meaning. What's so very different from present-day British English is the form — not the one-word verb visit but the two-word verb visit with.

Anonymous said...

Well this one has run and run and run so surely there's not much left to say. I can only observe that while in common with all(?) the other BrE speakers here I am completely flabbergasted by this hitherto unanticipated usage of such an innocent and apparently well-understood verb, one reason for this surprise (so much greater than with many other AmE-isms) is, I suggest, simple lack of prior exposure, and that in itself is quite unusual given the normal degree of exposure (both ways). In my long-winded way I'm saying that I don't think I've ever heard the expression "visit with" (or indeed "visit" used to mean "chat") on any US TV show, which is, let's face it, where we get most of our exposure from. Maybe I should watch more TV and/or pay closer attention. What we need is the televisual equivalent of BNC and COCA :-)

Anonymous said...

Well this one has run and run and run so surely there's not much left to say. I can only observe that while in common with all(?) the other BrE speakers here I am completely flabbergasted by this hitherto unanticipated usage of such an innocent and apparently well-understood verb, one reason for this surprise (so much greater than with many other AmE-isms) is, I suggest, simple lack of prior exposure, and that in itself is quite unusual given the normal degree of exposure (both ways). In my long-winded way I'm saying that I don't think I've ever heard the expression "visit with" (or indeed "visit" used to mean "chat") on any US TV show, which is, let's face it, where we get most of our exposure from. Maybe I should watch more TV and/or pay closer attention. What we need is the televisual equivalent of BNC and COCA :-)

David Crosbie said...

Anonymous

one reason for this surprise (so much greater than with many other AmE-isms) is, I suggest, simple lack of prior exposure

Perhaps we have been exposed without realising it. I can imagine hearing I visited with her on a TV show and automatically translating it into BrE I visited her. The character and the American viewers would know that the TV characters had a chat, but I wouldn't. There would be nothing to make me suspect that I hadn't perfectly understood.

rachel said...

@DavidCrosbie: I believe that the "with" in this case is required because it represents a social connection to a group. Mutual visiting took place. So it was not a case of I visit a, b and c, but I am in a network of a, b,c and myself, who all visit one another...

Hence the strange construction of "with whom"

But I am willing to be overruled.

Anonymous said...

@rachel

You wrote:

the "with" in this case is required because it represents a social connection to a group. Mutual visiting took place. So it was not a case of I visit a, b and c, but I am in a network of a, b,c and myself, who all visit one another...

That is the concept I ineptly attempted to convey in my earlier comment.

I agree with you 100%.

Anonymous in NJ

David Crosbie said...

rachel

But I am willing to be overruled.

Not by me, Rachel. That's what I assumed too — the equivalent of on visiting terms.

But that leaves a puzzle. The practice of making semi-formal visits to social peers did not die out until long after the term visit with was lost. Why lose the label when the practice labelled was still current among a social class which included many published writers?

I have a hunch that speakers of that class developed a distinction between visiting places and calling on people.

I may be wrong about the place constraint of visit. But I'm pretty sure the with was dropped because it would be grotesque to speak of people we call on with or people with whom we call on.

rachel said...

I would like to flag in the possibility of it being skewed by technology. The nineteenth/twentieth century rules about "At Home" days etc assumed communication. So I wonder if the earlier usage pre-dated the Penny Post. Visit then was the only form of communication, whereas after that, you could communicate your intent to call/visit. And telephony enabled an alternate form of calling (though not visitation).

Mrs Redboots (Annabel Smyth) said...

This is true, although here in the UK we have never said "calling" about using the phone; we ring people up or telephone them.

And do people not visit, or visit with, people over the telephone in the USA?

David Crosbie said...

Rachel

Before and after the invention of the post, the class of people we're taking about would have visiting cards aka calling cards. The (would be) visitor would present a card to a servant in the residence of the (intended) visitee.

I believe the visit or call served primarily as a consolidation of social relationships. If one of the social circle had something serious to convey to another, they would simply send a written message with a servant — no need for the technology of postage or telephony.

Mindy said...

Mrs Redboots, I would not say visit or visit with for anything over the phone. (St. Louis)

vp said...

I've lived in the US for the last 15 years, and until now I have never heard, or heard of, this usage of "visit with".

Do you think it might be something said mostly by or to women?

rushingtoread said...

Mrs. Redboots, despite being a relatively regular reader of British books, I needed context to realize that you meant anything other than the closet/coat-hanging area when you said "cloakroom," and you can imagine that it would be completely inappropriate to "pay a visit" in that way there! ;)

Mrs Redboots (Annabel Smyth) said...

Whereas here it is the normal euphemism for the downstairs room containing loo and basin, that I understand Americans refer to as a "Half bath". It is, or was in my day, not only the normal euphemism in schools, but where you would expect to find them.

Valerie said...

Interesting post and comments! My aunt (81) from Minnesota will say, "I'm glad we had a nice visit." when we've finished speaking by phone (I'm in the UK), or "I had a long visit with Sarah." (my sister, who's in Australia). My sister and I have commented on this to each other, as definitely find this usage baffling, although we are used to many Americanisms, as our father is from the US. So it can definitely be used when speaking by phone.

Anonymous said...

We had a good visit - phrase my Scottish relations would use. British English has variations from different areas.