LOS ANGELES, CA-
Okay, it would be a whole lot more elegant if instead of ‘but’ I used ‘yet,’ but it’s not going to happen. For the simple reason that most people use ‘but’ more often than ‘yet,’ the latter sounding almost too literary these days.
My first doubts about the usage of ‘but’ came when I was still living in Berlin, Germany. The German ‘aber’ seemed restrictive, and it wasn’t to my taste. The same is true for the English ‘but,’ and here is why:
Her husband died three months ago, and tomorrow Helen will marry her boyfriend.
Her husband died three months ago, but tomorrow Helen will marry her boyfriend.
The two sentences seem to say the same thing, and don’t. The first one states two facts and connects them, and doesn’t pass a judgment on Helen. The second however objects to the fact that Helen is marrying her boyfriend so quickly after her husband’s death. If that is the speaker’s intention, then, of course, ‘but’ is a tremendous help. If, however, you do not want to doubt Helen’s new marriage, why use that ‘but’?
‘But,’ to me, is an instrument of our morals or values. Without saying, “I really think Helen should have waited another year after poor Harry choked on his celery stick,” the user of the second example has expressed that same opinion.