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My draft says:

Weyl wrote these words in 1925, since when a long torrent of mathematical development has surged under the bridge of time.

Unsure that the phrase "since when" is sufficiently acceptable in formal writing, I went to substitute the phrase "since which time"—except that, in this particular sentence, that doesn't work. (Reason: it inadvertently creates a false parallel, for the word "time" appears with different meaning in the same sentence.)

I don't actually like my sentence, which smacks of a freshman's attempt to overreach for eloquence. I mean probably to strike it out and write something different (as soon as I think of something different to write), but meanwhile I wonder: is "since when" actually wrong in such a use? If it is, since when?

  • Straightforward alternatives include, "Since Weyl wrote these words in 1925, a long torrent...." The alternative (which uses "since" as a conjunction rather than as a preposition) is probably better English in any case, but I still wonder about the "since when." – thb May 23 '17 at 14:24
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In American colloquial English, "since when" is a derisive challenge to a statement of fact.

"I'm in charge here."

"Since when?"

The clear implication is that second speaker does not agree that the first is in charge. It's quite rude.

As a result, even if "since when" is semantically defensible, really, you just shouldn't use it that way. If you cannot completely recast the sentence

Since Weyl wrote these words in 1925, a long torrent of...

you could write instead

Weyl wrote these words in 1925, since which time a long torrent of...

And an extraneous note: you cannot "freshen up" a cliché. It just doesn't work. "A long torrent surged under the bridge" might sound to the writer as better than "water under the bridge", but I assure you it will sound both arch and clichéd to the reader.

Finally, "water under the bridge" doesn't even mean (as you seem to think) a long period of eventful progress; it means unpleasant events of the past that no longer matter.

  • You give me a useful lesson in English composition! Cannot "freshen up" a cliché? You're probably right about that. – thb May 23 '17 at 18:36
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    @thb -- see here and especially here for more failed attempts at cliché-freshening. – Malvolio May 23 '17 at 21:17
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Actually wrong, I cannot attest to. It is, however, at the very least, quite cumbersome to read and think about. This causes me to ponder exactly what you may be trying to convey. Someone wrote words in a distant year past, and after that time, some long torrent transpired. Would it be more readable to say 'after such time'? I shall consult with my closest friend who will know!

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    My favorite English Language instructor stated he would use the words "after which". No explanation, so I expect he is finishing his second novel. :) Best of luck to you! – Loree T. May 23 '17 at 16:44

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