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On line vs. Online

printperson has a question for all of you:

Does "on line" mean the same thing as "online"?

They are identical in meaning.
They differ in shades of meaning. (Explain in a comment.)
They mean rather different things. (Explain in a comment.)



( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 5th, 2008 10:49 pm (UTC)
"On line" - something is working, or it is in production. E.g. a factory is on line.

"Online" - when a computer is directly connected to a peripheral or (more commonly) to the internet.
Aug. 6th, 2008 07:39 am (UTC)
That is exactly what I was going to comment.
Aug. 6th, 2008 08:44 am (UTC)
Aug. 6th, 2008 09:02 am (UTC)
Fourthed, but so many people write "on line" when they mean "online" and vice versa, that I just take the meaning from the context.

Edited at 2008-08-06 09:02 am (UTC)
Aug. 5th, 2008 10:52 pm (UTC)
I can't answer, because I have difficulty imagining a grammatical interpretation of 'on line' that isn't well over a decade old.

This is intended as descriptive of my experience, not to imply anything about anyone who uses it differently.

Edited at 2008-08-05 11:05 pm (UTC)
Aug. 5th, 2008 11:04 pm (UTC)
I would take, online, on-line and on line as variant spellings of the same word. The interesting thing to me is that the early meaning of online as being anything run by computer, has become more specific and narrow anything being run on a computer network (usually via the internet).

Of course it also has older meanings applicable to other industries and technologies that I'm even not really familiar with (but found when I used the dictionary). So there is room for shades of meaning but I find it doubtful there is any consistency in trying to use the different spellings that way.
Aug. 5th, 2008 11:18 pm (UTC)
I have only ever seen "on line" in, for example, "She waited on line to buy tickets". Personally, I would never look at "on line" and assume it had anything to do with the internet, or even a machine being online, and if I read it in that context, I would blink.
Aug. 5th, 2008 11:35 pm (UTC)
This is probably more different than you anticipated it would be, or meant contextually, but in NYC the local version of "standing in line" is referred to as "standing on line." Cashiers call for the "next person on line."

In terms of the computer-centric focus your question was, I think, restricted to, in my usage, "online" means the state of a technology being functional ("the heart monitor is online and ready to go") as well as the state of being connected to the Internet. There's also a metaphorical meaning, indicating the awareness of or understanding of an issue: "She's online with your concerns." In none of these examples would I substitute "on line," which for me has little meaningful relation. (Although I wonder, in the last example I gave, if "online" has replaced what was originally a use of "on line.")

Edited at 2008-08-05 11:37 pm (UTC)
Aug. 5th, 2008 11:56 pm (UTC)
My computer is online right now.

I waited on line at the drugstore yesterday.
Aug. 6th, 2008 12:05 am (UTC)
I'm from New York, so I stand on line.

Online is for computery, internety things.
Aug. 6th, 2008 12:17 am (UTC)
I associate "on line" with a physical queue- "I met him on line for U2 tickets." "Online" to me signifies on the internet.

ETA: I am not from New York.

Edited at 2008-08-06 12:18 am (UTC)
Aug. 6th, 2008 12:59 am (UTC)
I take on line to mean a system is up and running. Online means, connected to the Internet.
Aug. 6th, 2008 08:46 am (UTC)
Just another vote for sartorias's interpretation. :)
Aug. 6th, 2008 01:16 am (UTC)
Without reading the other comments first (as a blind) I'd say that "on line" means that some process, person, machine, or similar is up and running. You can say that the new train is on line, or that so-and-so is aware of what needs to be done and has been brought on line, etc.

"Online" only means "on the internet."
Aug. 6th, 2008 02:02 am (UTC)
As far as I know "on line" refers to, say, washing, whereas "online" refers to internet activity
Aug. 6th, 2008 03:13 am (UTC)
To me, Online means that you are on the internet. But on line means that you are....with it. On line to completing the task, that sort of thing.
Aug. 6th, 2008 05:31 am (UTC)
"Online" I take always to mean "connected to the internet in some fashion." If I see "on line," I assume that either the writer meant "online" or that they're referring to something else, like waiting on line or having someone on [the telephone] line.
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 6th, 2008 09:24 am (UTC)
"online" is an adjective referring to things internet/web. "on line" is a locative (or, I suppose, state of activity).
Aug. 6th, 2008 10:46 am (UTC)
Online refers to using the internet or other electronic data transmitting programs (like e-mail or FTP). I've heard the term "on line" used to refer to standing in line, or queuing as I believe some people call it. :)
( 20 comments — Leave a comment )