"On behalf of"

Chris F Waigl chris at LASCRIBE.NET
Sat Dec 16 02:02:34 UTC 2006

Jim Parish wrote:

> Over the last few years, here at SIUE, we have received a number of
> proclamations from Gov. Blagojevich, ordering that the US and state
> flags should be put at half-staff for a day. Each of these proclamations
> has ended with the words "on behalf of :name:, :branch of service:"
> This construction seems odd to me; I would expect "in honor of" or "in
> memory of". Is this merely a Blagojevichism, or has it been sighted
> elsewhere?
This reminds me of a slightly odd (to me) usage of "on behalf of" in MS
Outlook's calendar module: When I forward an appointment -- for a
recurring meeting, say -- to another person (a new colleague in this
case), the appointment will arrive in the inbox "From: Chris Waigl on
behalf of N. N.", where N. N. is the name of the person in charge of
organizing the meeting in the first place. N. N., however, was unaware
that I forwarded the appointment and didn't request or direct me to act
on their behalf, or give their consent.  This usage also confused me
when I first received meetings labeled in this style because I assumed
that the person on whose behalf I had been sent the invitation would be
aware of the fact I had been invited, and my presence wouldn't come as a
surprise to them.

In a different vein, the American Heritage Book of English Usage has:

§ 169. in behalf of / on behalf of
A traditional rule holds that in behalf of and on behalf of have
distinct meanings. Accordingly, you should use in behalf of to mean "for
the benefit of," as in We raised money in behalf of the earthquake
victims. And you should use on behalf of to mean "as the agent of, on
the part of," as in The guardian signed the contract on behalf of the
child. But as the two meanings are quite close, the phrases are often
used interchangeably, even by reputable writers.

Chris Waigl

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

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