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The OALD says that ages is, "informal, especially BrE."

Is ages as in "I waited for ages" only used in British English?
If it is also used in other English dialects, is there any difference between the usage in those dialects? For example, is ages considered informal in one dialect, but not in another one?

  • I'm sure people say it here in America, but it sounds British to me anyway. – snailcar Feb 28 '13 at 0:23
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    What makes you think this trivial metaphor might be more common in UK than US? I have no reason to believe it so. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Feb 28 '13 at 3:56
  • @kiamlaluno: You, obviously. The idea that Brits might be more prone than Americans to use ages metaphorically sounds truly bizarre to me, so I'd like to know where you got the idea from. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Mar 1 '13 at 1:03
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    Most dictionaries I checked didn't have any such note, but a couple did. The Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary says "mainly UK informal". – snailcar Mar 1 '13 at 20:08
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    @FumbleFingers I agree. It does not sound at all UK-specific to me. – tchrist Apr 16 '13 at 23:01
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In any dialect, it is informal when used hyperbolically, as in “I waited for ages”, or “It's been ages since I saw you”.

From ngrams for ages since I saw,waited for ages in a British English corpus, and from similar ngrams in an American English corpus, it's evident that these two expressions are used slightly more frequently in BE than in AE. I don't recall hearing an American saying something like “I waited for ages”, but I think I have heard “It's been ages since I saw you” numerous times.

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    As a Canadian, I concur that it is more common for me to say, "I haven't seen you in ages" than to say, "I waited for ages". – Trish Rempel Feb 28 '13 at 2:47
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    As am American I agree with Trish. It's not a common phrase but not something that would trigger a double take either. – Dan is Fiddling by Firelight Feb 28 '13 at 3:09
  • I think those NGrams are probably misleading, because there aren't enough instances to draw any safe conclusions. Taking the last few of decades of been ages since, which is at least 10 times more common (and will almost always be OP's sense), the numbers show it's over twice as common in America as Britain. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Feb 28 '13 at 3:53
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I have heard this type phrase commonly in the US.

"I waited for ages”

would be inferring a complaint and is not really polite, as in

"You kept me waiting for ages”.

The focus is on the the person who caused the wait.

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