"Avail" = "advantage"?

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Thu Feb 28 15:45:02 UTC 2008

On Feb 27, 2008, at 8:35 PM, Wilson Gray wrote:

> From Slashdot:
> http://books.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08/02/27/1551206
> "... more UNIX references for those willing and able to _take avail
> of_ the UNIX kernel underlying the operating system ..."

believe it or not, this is an *old* sense -- perhaps the original
sense -- of the noun "avail".  the OED lists "avail" 'beneficial
effect; advantage, benefit, profit' as archaic or obsolete (except in
expressions like "of little/no avail"), with cites from the early 15th
century, including one with "take":

1871 Daily News 24 July, Taking avail of the cover.

google  pulls up a 1777 "take avail of" in The Reports of Sir Edward
Coke.  it also pulls up a respectable number of recent examples, many
of them in computer contexts --

   Having multiple swap partitions can be useful if you want to take
avail of suspend functionality. I believe that there is a 2GB per swap
partition limit so ...

   But what is the minimum time you can choose to pay for, should you
wish to take avail of the Wi-Fi link? Well, you have to pay for an
hour, obviously.

and a number from ethnic varieties (where they might be survivals from
earlier english) or non-native speakers --

   Additionally, we plan to create a central system where members can
take avail of different resources such as articles, forums, deals,
etc. ...

   Firstly, you must only take avail of the total premium paid to the
insurance company up to the time of the accident. The rest of the
compensation offered by ...
qa.sunnipath.com/issue_view. asp?HD=1&ID=2999&CATE=44

   ... which boasts a temperature of 29° C. Anyone keen to experience
it may take avail of goggles, snorkels and flippers, which are provided.

The administration deadly wished to take avail of the win to bail out
of the current embarrassment. Before the match, China stood the top in
the group with ...

but some seem to be neither:

   You can take avail of their promotional products package and pay a
particular amount for them to imprint your logo on these mugs.

   Nashua High South [Nashua NH] is a great place for anyone who wants
to take avail of the oppurtunities...

   Otherwise feel free to take avail of the transportation I'm leaving
at Jason's for the duration of my trip.  [29-year-old Australian man]

there are also some combos of "take avail" and "avail oneself":

A bonus-ship fly across the screen from time to time. Take avail
yourself of the bonuses that it will give you if you manage to hit
it. ...
www.gamezoneproject.com/a_product. php?product_name=Space

in any case, "take avail of" doesn't look obsolete.


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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