meantime, meanwhile
1. As a solitary adverb, meantime has largely given way to meanwhile, but is still occasionally found:

• Meantime, melt the remaining butter in a saucepan —Delia Smith, 1978.

It is most often used in the phrase in the meantime, which is now normally written as three words instead of four:

• The telephone will…redial the number you last called, even if you've hung up in the meantime —Which?, 1987.

Conversely, meanwhile is most often used by itself, and only occasionally in the variant phrase in the meanwhile:

• The animals Mrs Murray cares for are always returned to the wild if possible. Meanwhile, they stay at her study centre —Times, 1986

• In the meanwhile, I'll just lie here, flat on my back, fingering my perfect bones —J. Shute, 1992.

2. In recent use, meanwhile is commonly used in journalism and (especially) broadcasting as a means of resuming a main theme after a digression or aside:

• Meanwhile, as we say in the trade, Mother well go bottom [of the League table] —television broadcast, 1987

• Meantime: food. We cannot live by bread alone, but it helps —I. Maitland, 1993.

The use may owe its origins to the catch-phrase Meanwhile, back at the ranch, used originally in captions to silent Western films and later as a voice-over in films with sound. This phrase too is common allusively in a wide range of contexts:

• Meanwhile back in the Commons, Mrs Thatcher tried to resist questions by saying the issues were sub judice —Today, 1987

• Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the transport system is in chaos, there's a full-scale law and order crisis and the NHS is a basket case —Sun, 2002.

Modern English usage. 2014.

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