Quick announcement: This Saturday I'll be at two book signings in Utah County. Check the sidebar for details.
On to Word Nerd Wednesday:
Friend, closet word nerd (don't deny it), and Whitney President Rob Wells asked why in the world we sometimes say, "How come?" when we're really asking, "Why?"
On the surface, "how come" really makes no sense, does it?
I had no idea whatsoever, so I did a little digging.
I discovered some consensus that "how come" is a shortened version of, "How did it come to be?"
Which, you know, actually makes some sense.
Similarly, Shakespeare used "How comes it" several times (such as in Comedy of Errors and Hamlet).
Supporting Shakespeare's way of thinking is one source I found that claims German and Dutch have a similar phrase hearkening to, "how did it come to be." (I don't know either language, so I'll have to take his word for it.)
However, The Word Detective says that the actual phrase, "how come" didn't come around until the mid-1800s in the U. S. My Oxford English Dictionary agrees, saying it turned up in print around 1848.
The Word Detective goes on to explain that "how come" uses "come" in the sense of something happening, such as, "Come next July, we're going to Disneyland."
Then you add "how" as an adverb, which asks, "in which way," and you get "how come."
Basically, "How come" means, "in which way did that happen/is it going to happen?"
The same article notes that:
Unlike “why,” “how come” strongly suggests that the questioner has already developed an opinion on the situation and has decided that something is not proper or fair.
Examples abound for anyone who has at least two offspring. ("How come SHE gets a cookie?!")
As with many words and phrases, there's ongoing debate on whether "how come" is correct in standard English. I've seen it enough in print that I think it's pretty much accepted in most circles, with some academics being the last to say it's not correct.
Surprisingly, however, I don't have a strong opinion either way.
(Me? Not have an opinion? Quick! Call Ripley's!)
Today's tour stops:
Rarely Home Mom
Queen of the Clan
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