While looking up the various senses of "while" in the Oxford English Dictionary, I came across the following:

[B 2 c.] In modern colourless use: At the same time that, besides that, in addition to the fact that; often = and at the same time, and besides.


I'm not sure what is implied by "colourless use" here.

  • Well, the sense listed could contrast with an earlier, more playful or colorful use. But what would a colorful use of "while" look like?! – GoldenGremlin Feb 10 '16 at 21:41
  • 1
    I think they just mean that sense B2c doesn't have the explicitly contrastive implications of the one immediately before it, which talks about those "coloured" usages as being made up of two sub-categories (adversatively and concessively). – FumbleFingers Feb 10 '16 at 21:50
  • It's synonymous with or at least analogous to (though probably less in degree) the term 'bleached [of meaning]' (eg 'take' in 'take a bath' as opposed to 'take' in 'take your umbrella'). – Edwin Ashworth Feb 10 '16 at 23:27
  • Does that mean that when 'while' means 'although' or 'but', it is coloured; but when 'while' means 'coincident', it is bleached? – AmI Feb 10 '16 at 23:40

In this case, 'colourless' is used figuratively to mean 'impartial, neutral':

colourless | colorless, adj.
3. fig. Conveying no bias or inclination toward any party, view, etc.; impartial, neutral.

Thus, 'while' in this definition refers to the transferred sense of 'while' (see definition 2c), but without implications of

  • 'provided that'
  • 'if only'
  • opposition
  • contrast

Those implications 'color' (that is, 'supply nuances of the sense of') the word in other transferred senses: see definitions and accompanying quotes 2a and 2b.

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