Prepositions and Mind Control

Lonelysandwich makes an inter­est­ing point with regards the use of ‘on the App Store’ (in the con­text of iPhone applic­a­tions) rather than ‘at the App Store’.

If I asked you where you went to buy your iPhone, would you say you bought it on the Apple Store? No, you wouldn’t. You’d say you bought it at the Apple Store. Does this mean that Apple chooses not to think of iTunes as a retail out­let or to think of apps as retail products?

In English, pre­pos­i­tions are intim­ately linked with their verbsThis holds true for German, as far as I know, and prob­ably for many oth­er lan­guages. and you divorce them at your per­il. The use of dif­fer­ent pre­pos­i­tion changes mean­ing. Of course, pre­pos­i­tions change and drift over time. We might say “Come over to my house” instead of “Come to my house”. Why? Who knows. (Let’s not get star­ted on knock­ing someone up.)

It is con­scious pre­pos­i­tion­al changes that get on my nerves. Why, for instance, do the guards on Virgin Trains announce that “We will be arriv­ing into London Victoria”. Why not “arriv­ing at”? What’s the think­ing here? Did some­body decide that “to arrive” no longer takes the pre­pos­i­tion “at”? I have half an idea that some­body thinks “arrive at” implies the ter­min­a­tion of a jour­ney, where­as “arrive into” implies the jour­ney is ongo­ing. But is this the case?

Meanwhile, at or on the App Store, Apple areA viol­a­tion of noun-verb num­ber agree­ment, gran­ted. But that’s a Britishism. try­ing to change how you think about their product.

I’ve always thought of an iPhone app, like any oth­er soft­ware, as a product. Perhaps this has some­thing to do with tying my first memor­ies of soft­ware pro­grams to the boxes in which they were sold, on the shelves at retail out­lets like Egghead and CompUSA. But clearly, Apple thinks of apps dif­fer­ently. Apple, it seems, thinks of apps as con­tent cre­ated by developers in the way that music is cre­ated by musi­cians and movies are cre­ated by film­makers.


Author: Ian Hocking

Writer and psychologist.

4 thoughts on “Prepositions and Mind Control”

  1. We might also say “Come on over to my house”, or pos­sibly even “Come on over down to my house” — which would be a plaus­ible way of win­ning a prize for using four con­sec­ut­ive pre­pos­i­tions without sound­ing com­pletely pre­pos­ter­ous.

    Another thing. Does “meet with”, in the sense of “I met with Mr Rascal”, meet with your (dis-)approval?

    Don’t get me star­ted with the nadger-kick­ing con­stantly per­per­trated by the train com­pan­ies on the English lan­guage.

  2. Come on over down to my house” is just about bril­liant.

    I have to say that I’m not try­ing to be pre­script­ive. At least, that’s not the motiv­a­tion. I’m just irrit­ated by people chan­ging pre­pos­i­tion in accord­ance with some sin­is­ter agenda.

    I think ‘meet with’ is fine. German has ‘tref­fen mit’ (as I recall, imper­fectly), and the ‘with’ cla­ri­fies (where­as we might drop that word in English).

    Each to their own — except the nadger-kick­ing train com­pan­ies, of course.

  3. If I asked you where you went to buy your iPhone, would you say you bought it on the Apple Store? No, you wouldn’t.

    *pan­to­mime mode* Oh yes, I would 🙂 Assuming, of course, that one means the Apple Store at rather than a phys­ic­al store.

    Using “on” rather than “at” is com­mon for online / vir­tu­al versus real stores. It’s a bit like it’s more com­mon to say “I’m on Google” rather than at “I’m at Google”. I don’t think there’s any con­spir­acy behind that 😉

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *