When asked about the usage of a particularly obscure or academic word, one can respond with a definition, but then state an alternative, more commonly used word. One phrase I've heard used in this context is "in the colloquial". For example:

Yes, my academic job involves student tutelage, but in the colloquial we usually say that I teach students.

Is this a proper phrase? The alternative, I think, is simply "colloquially":

...colloquially, we say I teach students.

Is this more appropriate? Thanks!

  • Phrase "I teach students" is not colloquial, since it is good ordinary English. Tutelage, on the other hand, being jargon, might be colloquial. Feb 18, 2012 at 1:16

2 Answers 2


The phrase I commonly hear is "in the vernacular," with vernacular used in this sense:

vernacular, noun. : (usually the vernacular) the language or dialect spoken by the ordinary people in a particular country or region

But if you wanted to preserve the use of colloquial, then rephrasing it to use the adverb ("colloquially, we put them through the wringer") is the correct form.

Note the usage examples of colloquial here.

  • -1 "in the vernacular" uses the word "vernacular" as a noun!. Feb 18, 2012 at 2:56

As @Gnawme says, the standard term is in the vernacular. I don't put post this answer in order for it to be upvoted, because obviously Gnawme is right (apart from confusing noun/adjective usage).

I'm simply posting to make the point that Google Books can be misleading in cases like this. If you dive straight in and search for "in the colloquial is" (a reasonable text string to avoid "false positives" such as "written in the colloquial style of the age"), GB initially claims there are "about 10,100 results". You might well think it's a pretty commonplace text string, but start paging through them and GB soon admits there are actually only 80 results.

By contrast, search for "in the vernacular is". GB initially says there are "about 199,000 results". If you have the patience, page through them. it will eventually stop at 437 results.

GB will never return more than 1000 results. I don't know if this limit influences the estimated values. What I do know is that Google Books should be treated with caution. And I know that "the colloquial" is definitely not a valid noun phrase in British English, nor probably in American English (it may be valid in Indian English, but that's another story).

  • Your GB reference says "When the Google Search Appliance filters results, the top 1000 most relevant URLs are found before the filters are applied. A URL that is beyond the top 1000 most relevant results is not affected if you change the filter settings." As I read it, it does not say or imply that "GB will never return more than 1000 results". Perhaps you have some additional specialized knowledge of what happens? (Possibly meta is better place for this issue.) Feb 18, 2012 at 1:23
  • @jwpat7: I have no special knowledge. Over the past year I've checked 40-50 pages a few times (I can't seem to increase from default 10 results/page in GB). If the "estimated total" stays about the same, I rate it as bulletproof. I don't normally bother with more than a page or two, which I just glance at to make sure the results I'm seeing really are what I'm looking for, not just some fluke conjunction of those search term words. The heavy lifting involves COCA & such, which I don't really get involved in. Feb 18, 2012 at 1:39
  • To set 50 or 100 items/page, click Advanced search (at page bottom) and items/page dropdown. Mine stays set at 50/page unless I do that. Note, based on 10 searches I just did, it appears you may be right about 1000 limit; too bad the documentation isn't more precise. Feb 18, 2012 at 1:54
  • @jwpat7: I used to have 100 results/page under IE, but I'm using Chrome now. It says 100, but doesn't seem to do it. And I can't see anything wrong with my cookie settings. It's not the end of the world. Maybe I'll have another look at it when I'm feeling all fired up. Feb 18, 2012 at 2:06
  • I agree with you that “in the colloquial” sounds alien. However, the OED actually does include colloquial as a noun, with two 20ᵗʰ-century citations. 1921 “The hotel-keeper or waiter will concentrate on hotel colloquial, as also will the tourist or tripper.” 1962 “The earliest texts are not especially difficult of interpretation on the basis of today's colloquial.” In contrast, in the vernacular it has in spades. {I still think the forum should chip in and get you an OED subscription.}
    – tchrist
    Feb 18, 2012 at 4:14

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