Attendance - attendants

From Hull AWE
Revision as of 14:30, 18 April 2015 by DavidWalker (Talk | contribs)

(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)
Jump to: navigation, search

Attendance and attendants sound the same, except in the most careful speech. All such words are derived from the same root, the verb 'to attend', originally Latin ad- 'to' and tendere, 'to stretch'. The root meaning is 'to stretch [one's mind] towards something', and hence 'to fix [one's attention] on something.' There are two main branches of meaning in Present-day English.

  • 'To pay attention to', 'to direct the mind toward', 'to concentrate the interest [or brain, or ears, etc] on'. The abstract noun for this meaning of the verb is always attention.
  • 'To be present at', in general; more narrowly, 'to accompany as a servant', 'to be a junior member of the group around a more important person'. To attend to someone's needs, or wishes, is to look after that person
      • (Obsolete meanings include the equivalent of French attendre 'to wait for', 'to expect'. Do not use this faux ami.)
  • So the abstract noun Attendance may mean:
    • 'the state of being present', as in "Students' attendance at lectures will be recorded" (and this may be in an attendance register).
      • Attendance in a development of this sense may also be used to mean the numbers in an audience, or at a sports match, less formally 'the gate'. "Attendance at City's last game fell below 20,000."
    • the position, or state, of a person who is serving as a junior, etc. This can be in such phrases as 'in attendance [up]on', 'to dance attendance on' (this is rather pejorative, with connotations of servile obedience on the part of the junior).
      • An attendance allowance may be paid a) to members of certain voluntary bodies as compensation for loss of earnings, etc, if they attend a meeting; or b) to certain carers as a reward for attending to the needs, e.g. of a disabled person.
  • The noun 'an attendant' means 'someone who is present at an event in order to be of service to a superior', or 'to serve the purposes of an organization'. Various jobs are called 'flight attendants', 'car park attendant', etc.
    • The better noun for someone who is present at an occasion or event is attender. (See also -ee to explain why attendee is not favoured, and Smallweed 16-04-05 for a more humorous explanation.)
  • The adjective attendant means 'present [at an occasion]', often as a servant.
    • More figuratively, it means (of ideas or consequences, etc) 'following closely', or 'resulting from'. Harriet Martineau is quoted by OED as writing "The suffering and death attendant upon war".
Don't confuse, by mishearing, 'a tendency' with 'attendance'. (Neither tendence nor attendancy is current English.)
AWE has a Table collecting some of the words that fall into this pattern.