The Below.

This is quick and simple, but it suddenly piqued my curiosity: e-mails announcing editing jobs from a particular provider routinely begin “The below job has been assigned to you…” That sounds weird to me, although “the above” is perfectly normal. Is it a dialect thing, or is it just my personal quirk?


  1. Sounds weird to me. (The dialects I’m most familiar with are Irish English and American English.)

  2. Just don’t say it too fast. “I’d like to see you about the below job” or “I can never get enough below jobs”

  3. I get those too. I assume this is some sort of Indian English, as are many quirks associated with correspondence with said unnamed provider.

  4. Yes, Indian English was my guess.

  5. Sounds weird to me, too. I prefer “the following”.

  6. J. W. Brewer says

    The “above” idiom is presumably rooted in the traditional format of business correspondence which had a subject line “RE: Editing Such-and-Such” located physically above the “Dear Mr. Dodson:” salutation line. I agree that “following” (i.e. “do you want to do the thing I will now proceed to describe in the body of the letter”) feels more idiomatic than “below.”

  7. Sounds perfectly normal to me.

  8. It seems awkward to me, but then so does “the above.”

    In olden times, people would write infra and supra, wouldn’t they? I suppose you might still see such things in letters from long-established London (or Mumbai) law firms, but fortunately I do not receive such letters.

  9. Definitely weird but I would happily say or write ‘the job below has been… etc’, which isn’t so different (or is it?).

  10. I would happily say or write ‘the job below has been… etc’, which isn’t so different (or is it?).

    It’s just as different as “the big dog” versus “the dog big,” so yes, pretty different.

  11. “The below” sounds weird to me, “the following” is what I would have used. But the question is not new; here is a year-old discussion, please scroll down one page ti Ngram plots showing that “the below is/are” is vastly underused in print compared to “the above”. And on the contrary, “the preceding” is hugely underutilized compared to “the following”. They go on to explain that OED has entries for “above” as noun dating back to XIV c., but not for “below”.

    Most of the discussions about the weirdness of “the below” (and there are many, many threads out there!) are about emails rather than books or webpages, so perhaps it’s a specific emerging email-specific usage? Although one can find it on the web occasionally … even in quizzes: “Which of the below is…?” (and it doesn’t seem to be too common in India-related pages – even more so in Korean, for example)

  12. Years ago, I read a style guide for dissertations that said “above” should always come after the noun, as in “the figure above” instead of “the above figure”. (There was a grammatical term for this position, but I can’t recall it at the moment.) The justification was that if you consider the parallel situation with “below” instead of “above”, then after the noun is obviously better. I liked the conclusion and also agreed with the justification, and I’ve followed that advice ever since. But since then I’ve seen others (Donald Knuth?) make the reverse argument — since “the above figure” is OK, it follows that “the below figure” also has to be OK.

  13. J. W. Brewer says

    At least in lawyer jargon, the “above” is somewhat spelled out more explicitly as e.g. “the above-referenced matter,” making the position before rather than after the noun more cromulent. Supra and infra are still in use in lawyer jargon, but most typically in document-internal cross-references (“See infra at section IV.B”) that do not necessarily follow the same conventions as “ordinary” free-standing sentences in running prose, even jargony running prose.

  14. Sounds fine to me. Though I am in frequent contact with Indian English speakers.

  15. To me, “the below” seems no more stilted than “the above”, although somewhat less common.

  16. David Marjanović says

    “above” as noun

    It’s clearly an adjective in such usage, and sounds unremarkable to me (I use it myself) because of the German parallel der/die/das obige.

    I hadn’t encountered “the below”, and there’s no such adjective in German either.

  17. To me “the below” is weird, because I’m not used to it. At one time I experienced “the above” as unpleasantly jargon-y, but I’m used to it now. It made a difference when I noticed that Abraham Lincoln used it.

  18. I agree with the other commenters who feel that “the below” sounds fine, although it is less common than “the above.” However, whenever I see a reference to “the below,” I always think of this passage from the beginning of Chapter 7 of Great Expectations:

    At the time when I stood in the churchyard reading the family tombstones, I had just enough learning to be able to spell them out. My construction even of their simple meaning was not very correct, for I read “wife of the Above” as a complimentary reference to my father’s exaltation to a better world; and if any one of my deceased relations had been referred to as “Below,” I have no doubt I should have formed the worst opinions of that member of the family.

  19. I wonder if that gravestone example is part of the reason why ‘the above’ sounds more natural – in handwriting or typing, never mind stone carving, it’s easy to refer to something you’ve already done, but you have to plan ahead to refer to something you’re going to do later.

  20. Reminds me of the lovely Indian English word “prepone”. As in “we need to prepone your Wednesday appointment to Monday”.

  21. As above so below.

  22. Reminds me of the lovely Indian English word “prepone”.

    As seen on LH!

  23. Gotta wonder if “prepone” is related to Russ. arch. препона (the prefix is substantially different but the Slavonic root might be the same ~~ to stop / to place?) (A less archaic version would be препятствие “obstacle” but see also препинание “punctuation” )

  24. PS: this is from a timeless 1950s Americana piece, Robert McCloskey’s “The Doughnuts” translated as Приключения Гомера Прайса:

    Пончики, пончики –
    Целые вагончики!
    Чики-пон, чики-пон,
    Нет для пончиков препон!

  25. Homer Price, for those who (like myself) weren’t acquainted with him.

  26. Homer Price, for those who (like myself) weren’t acquainted with him.

    apparently not one of McCloskey’s best-known books in the US. Wikipedia claims that it’s much better known in the xUSSR. Maybe due to the translator’s and poet’s skills of Yury Khazanov

  27. J. W. Brewer says

    I am quite taken aback that a well-read American male of hat’s generation escaped boyhood without making the acquaintance of Homer Price. Although I will admit that I myself had plumb forgotten (perhaps it never even registered with me in boyhood?) that they were written by the same guy as the ducklings/blueberries/etc books.

  28. I never heard of Homer Price either.

  29. I was just perusing an older inorganic chemistry textbook, and found, already on page 8, “vide infra” instead of “see below.” This took me aback a bit, as unnecessary and a not common use of Latin. (The book was published in 1962, and the author was Danish, if that means anything.) I was looking at the book due to a confluence of factors. Somebody recently uncovered a trove of inorganic chemistry textbooks, and I grabbed a few that looked like they might be interesting and put them in my car to peruse. Thus, they were readily at hand when the topic of symmetry groups in compounds arose in during a research meeting this morning.

    I mention this because I had originally planned to attend the meeting in person, but it ended up being entirely virtual. Several people, including myself, had had potential Covid exposure during the last week. In my case, I was also feeling a bit weird all throughout the morning (muzzy head and tachycardia), and in my e-mail saying I couldn’t attend in person, I said I felt “a bit febrile.” That use of febrile came naturally to me, but I wondered about how others would perceive it.

    I feel like the cognate forms fevered, feverish, and febrile are in decreasing order of severity. To me, the strongest form, fevered, connotes a situation in which someone has a clear fever which is likely causing multiple additional symptoms. At the other end of the scale, I was using febrile to indicate that I was experiencing certain symptoms that commonly occur during a fever, although I did not actually seem to have an elevated temperature. This felt natural to me, but I wondered how others would perceive it. All those fever-related adjectives are regularly used metaphorically, and the boundary between extended uses and outright metaphors may not be entirely clear. Moreover, febrile is a fairly learned word, although it is not a piece of technical terminology that I recall American physicians using particularly much.

  30. I use fevered almost entirely as a metaphor (“fevered imagination”), feverish for literally having a fever, and febrile (as far as I can remember) not at all.

  31. John Cowan says

    I didn’t use febrile until Irene was 18 months old and had the first of a series of febrile seizures (a seizure triggered by a rapid rise in body temperature). There were a few more over the next few years, but after that I spent almost two decades explaining it to various doctors who wanted to know not why she was allergic to phenobarbital but how we came to know that. It was administered to her in an attempt to treat her Todd’s paralysis (a rare consequence of seizures, typically on one side only), and the result is that she broke out in a rash that she couldn’t even scratch, because her left (dominant) arm was paralyzed.

  32. Hmm my usage seems to be almost opposite to Hat’s.

    I use ‘febrile’ of imagination: wiktionary offers ‘Full of nervous energy.’

    I use ‘feverish’ for how I/someone feels/looks. cp ‘liverish’.

    I use ‘fevered’ of a town/populace: suffering from fever. Or of a swamp: fetid. I do recognise ‘fevered’ can be used as a metaphor — but I’d expect that sense to be given from the noun.

  33. Fascinating — I wonder if anyone studies such things?

Speak Your Mind