instantaneously vs instantly

Humble   Mon Jun 11, 2007 4:18 am GMT
Please look at this sentence.

He instantaneously closed his eyes and passed on.
Could we also say
He instantly closed his eyes and passed on.
Any difference?

Skippy   Mon Jun 11, 2007 5:01 am GMT
Because Americans typically exaggerate, instantly usually means quickly, while instantaneously would actually mean at that very moment in time.
Uriel   Mon Jun 11, 2007 6:36 am GMT
I would never use "instantaneously" in that sentence. It's got nothing to do with American usage.
Guest   Mon Jun 11, 2007 7:22 am GMT
To me, instantly doesn't sound right, there. It's a usage I'm not accustomed to but logically, both are correct.
furrykef   Mon Jun 11, 2007 1:47 pm GMT
I'd prefer "instantly". "Instantaneously" would mean that virtually NO time elapsed, not even milliseconds. It's generally used literally rather than figuratively.
Guest   Mon Jun 11, 2007 2:37 pm GMT
I agree with Skippy but not the American part. There must be something else that happened or is happening at the same time for the author to use "instantaneously". "Instantly" wouldn't necessarily convey the same idea but would have more to do with the speed of the action.

What is "passed on" referring to?
furrykef   Mon Jun 11, 2007 3:12 pm GMT
"Passed on", when used intransitively, is a euphemism for "died". One could also say "passed away".
Damian in Edinburgh   Mon Jun 11, 2007 3:51 pm GMT
Yes, the "-aneous" part of the words means at that very moment in time. Instantaneous - at that very instant - bang on the very moment in time the event occurred - "death was instantaneous in the accident". "He died instantly" would suggest a rather less precise moment of occurrence. "Contemporaneous" - happening or existing or occurring at the precise same moment in history....."Sir Francis Drake and the Spanish Armada were contemporaneous in English history".
Guest   Mon Jun 11, 2007 4:01 pm GMT
simultaneously and instantaneously are sysnoymous?????
furrykef   Mon Jun 11, 2007 4:17 pm GMT
Not quite. "Instantaneous" still denotes a sequence of events, whereas "simultaneous" does not. If I press a button and something instantaneously happens, it's clear that what happened was caused by pressing the button, even though it appeared to happen more or less at the same time. But if I press it and something simultaneously happens, it was not caused by pressing the button.

- Kef
Humble   Tue Jun 12, 2007 5:43 am GMT
OK, as far as I can see, not too much difference, if any. It was worth asking, anyway.

Thanks a lot, everybody.