Loitering and sauntering

Wikipedia’s page on the American writer Dorothy Parker mentions that she was once fined $5 for “loitering and sauntering” while taking part in an activist protest. 

Loitering is a well-enough known offence, but it is hard to see what the offence in sauntering is; indeed it is hard to see what the offence in loitering is. Surely we have all loitered or sauntered, or strolled, wandered, meandered, moseyed … at some time. 

According to dictionary.com loiter is the older word: before 1300–50; Middle English loteren, loytren, perhaps from Middle Dutch loteren “to stagger, totter”; compare Dutch leuteren “to dawdle”. Saunter is: 1660–70; of uncertain origin, though one blogger traverses a number of suggested origins. 

Loitering is still an offence in some jurisdictions, but usually more is needed than just standing around doing nothing, for example the intention to commit some more substantive offence, or failing to move on when directed. Basically it gives the police the power to charge anyone they want to but can’t pin anything else on, often people in easily identifiable groups in society. I can’t find anything about sauntering as an offence, except for one possibly automated website which states:

Saunter and commit crime are semantically related. In some cases you can use “Saunter” instead a verb phrase “Commit crime”.


Not the Nine O’Clock News was a British television sketch comedy show from 1979 to 1982. I don’t remember watching it, but remember a friend playing one sketch on cassette, which I still remember close on 40 years later. A police constable is summoned by a sergeant and reprimanded for “being a little over-zealous” (video, script) (medium potential-for-offence warning). In one month, he has “brought 117 ridiculous, trumped-up and ludicrous charges … against the same man”, who happened to be in of those easily identifiable groups. One of those was “loitering with intent to use a pedestrian crossing”. I’ll leave the rest for you to discover. (Yes, the sergeant is played by Rowan Atkinson.) 


intends genuinely

(I am not a lawyer. This is not legal advice. It is a discussion of a linguistic issue arising from one piece of Australian legislation.)

Clause 500 of the Australian Migration Regulations covers student visas. One of the requirements is that “the applicant intends genuinely to stay in Australia temporarily” (that is, it is not a permanent visa). The wording intends genuinely struck me as awkward. Throughout the Regulations, intends genuinely is used four times, alongside genuinely intends 12 times and genuinely intend twice.

The linguistic questions which arise are: is intends genuinely ungrammatical, if so, why; and if is it grammatical, why does it sound so awkward?

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I do

Yesterday I went to the wedding of my equal-favourite niece and the man of her dreams. Inevitably, there was a linguistic point.

One of the clichés about wedding services is that they involves saying “I do” (see the movie Four Weddings and Funeral, for example) . At all of the wedding services I’ve ever been to (including yesterday’s) people have said  “I will”. The question is “[Name], will you have [Name] to be your husband/wife?”. Other Christian denominations may have different wordings, which might involve the question “Do you take [Name] to be your husband?”, to which the answer is “I do”. (We could also ask “Will you take …?” but not “Do you have …?”) 

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