Adjourn - postpone

From Hull AWE
Jump to: navigation, search

These two words are used without any appreciable distinction in their meanings. Both are used to mean 'to put off' or 'to delay' - for example, a case in court, a social engagement or a sports fixture. "The meeting was adjourned at 5:00" (i.e. the people present stopped the meeting, intending to resume at some time in the future - perhaps the next day); "The wedding was postponed till July" (i.e. it did not happen at the time originally arranged, but was re-arranged to happen at a time later on); and "Because of a heavy snowfall, the match was postponed for a week." The last of these three examples would always, I think, be 'postponed'.

There is an etymological school of thought that says adjourn (which comes from the Latin for 'to' and the French for 'day') should only be used when the event, whatever it is, has been rearranged for a specific date in the future; and that postpone (Latin, 'to put after') should be used when the event is not scheduled for a specific time in the future, merely delayed in the present.

If you want to be a true pedant, follow this usage. If you want to write vigorous and intelligible English, don't bother.

There is truly strange usage of a Latin phrase, sine die, which means 'without a day', or 'with no date set', which is used in Rugby League playing circles with the participle adjourned. This tends to undermine my theoretical ruminations above. Its strength is weakened by the fact that the Rugby fraternity tends to pronounce the phrase as "sign die" IPA: /saɪn daɪ/, whereas academics and others who pretend they know Latin prefer to pronounce it with four syllables - "sin eh dee ay" IPA: /sɪn e diː e/ (see also Latin Words and Phrases in English).
See also defer.