"waiting for" vs. "waiting on"

I agree with this. I come from a “waiting for” area (Chicago), but I’ve evidently interacted with enough people or consumed enough media (or perhaps some subset of the population here does use “waiting on”) such that “waiting for” and “waiting on” do feel slightly different to me, and that difference is basically what you said. “Waiting on” somebody or something to me often has the implication that you can’t continue doing something until whatever your waiting on arrives.

Whenever I see these kind of threads I tend to notice that I do not favor either usage and actually use both because to me they mean the same thing. I laugh when I see stuff like “we go the pharmacy to get our prescriptions, but those people say go to the drug store”; as if there’s confusion. Maybe technically the pharmacy is the drug dispensing unit inside a drug store but, if true, that hair-splitting distinction has been lost.

Every language has idioms and there is no law that requires them to be logical.

It’s the same for idioms within a language. For one reason or another, a usage becomes common in one area. Once it’s common, people continue to use it for years – or even centuries – later.

It’s not right or wrong. It’s whether a person speaks a particular idiom or not.

If the issue is what’s the correct idiom, then anything goes.

I never use “waiting on” myself, but my sense is that someone saying “on” is not sure when or if the event would actually happen, while “for” implies more certainty. He might wait “for” a bus, but “on” his job offer.

Interesting. That sounds plausible, too. I know I feel a difference, but I can’t quite pinpoint it. Today, dropping off my kid at school, I noticed one of the screening questions was “are you waiting on any COVID test results?” I was about to ask the screener where he was from just to see if this is or is not Chicago usage. (It’s hard to tell for myself, as my English has become muddled with extra-regional terms that I sometimes don’t know for sure how we talk in Chicago.)

British English uses on for streets too. Maybe there are some Scots dialects or something that say in?

“In the middle of our street” is different. I’m pretty sure Americans say “in the middle,” too - the street isn’t relevant here.

The insistence that if certain specific externally imposed arbitrary rules are not followed, then “anything goes” is a classic prescriptivist misconception of language. The rules of language derive from usage, through spontaneous consensus-forming among communities of speakers. The vast majority of actual rules in a language are so widely and unconsciously accepted that they are never discussed in “pet peeve” threads. For example, no speaker of any dialect of English would say “I bread eat”.

It’s a good rule of thumb that any “rule” that is brought up as a pet peeve is something marginal that is probably not any kind of fundamental rule in the language. The topic of this thread is clearly in that category. People don’t generally complain in this way about errors made by children or non-native speakers, so these peeves are usually usages that vary with register or among dialects, or usages that are in flux. If this kind of empirical variation in usage did not exist, claims that only one form is “correct” would be pointless. You obviously won’t find people peeving about people saying “I bread eat” because people don’t say that - it’s an actual rule in the English language.

Everything does not go, and in fact the rules are strict, since the vast majority of random assemblages of words of universally agreed to be ungrammatical or unidiomatic.

If you were writing a formal business document or scientific paper, which would you use, “waiting for” or “waiting on”?

My own answer to that is unimportant, since in my (British) dialect, the “wait on” construction is not used in any register with the meaning that’s under discussion here. But I’m finding the discussion here about how the usage varies interesting - as a long term U.S. resident, I had thought the prepositions were pretty much interchangeable, just variation among dialects. I didn’t realize that some people use both prepositions with a perceived subtle distinction in meaning.

(Your assertions that one preposition is “wrong”, however, are misguided and uninteresting.)

Interestingly enough — and I mentioned how my one kid was asked if she was “waiting on” Covid test results — my other kid goes to public school where we have to do a daily screener via the web in the morning. So, formal setting, formal written language. Because this thread was on my mind since yesterday’s drop off and I wondered if this usage might also be used around here, I noted that Chicago Public Schools on their screener wrote: “Is anyone in the family waiting on COVID-19 test results.” So … huh. Maybe we do also use here.

“Waiting on” seems to be a standard usage in computer science. I find a lot of examples of things like

" On a processor with an issue width of 8, gec still has a significant amount of BEP due to machine waiting on unresolved branches even with 10 prediction branch paths being used." (1998 Fourth International Symposium on High-Performance Computer Architecture)

In Congressional Hearings, formal statements include sentences like “Our people die waiting on help that never comes.” ( Hearings on Cold War, Korea, WWII POWS: Hearings Before the Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs, United States Senate, One Hundred Second Congress, Second Session … November 10 and 11, 1992)

I don’t really think I notice a difference between the two. I’d probably more often say “waiting for” but they both sound perfectly normal. If I had to think about it I might say that “waiting on” is used more often for things like medical results.

(Although I do 100% of the time say that I am waiting on line. That one’s a NY thing.)

I am not consistent with this usage, but I personally assign slightly different meanings to on and for.
When I am waiting on the bus to arrive-I am not doing anything else.
When I am waiting for dinner to be ready-I am doing other things (or at least have the ability to do so) while I am waiting.

I am waiting on the timer.
I am waiting for the timer to go off.
Slightly different meanings to me

Curious; I’m British, too, and several dialects I’m aware of use the ‘waiting on’ construction.
‘I’m waiting on my exam results’. and so on.

At least in some situations when talking about waiting for/on people, I think that “waiting for” has a positive connotation, i.e., you wouldn’t want them to miss out and you’re joyfully anticipating seeing them again whereas “waiting on” has a negative connotation, i.e., they are slowing you down and you could get on with what you are doing if they would just hurry up and get there.

I grew up in west London, it’s not idiomatic in my dialect. No doubt you’re right about other U.K. dialects. Everyone is familiar with it from American T.V. anyway, so I probably would not have been sensitive to hearing it as unusual from another British speaker.