[DWJ] different than, What are you reading?

Mark Allums mark at allums.com
Fri Nov 6 10:37:55 EST 2009

Melissa Proffitt wrote:
> On Thu, 5 Nov 2009 08:25:34 +0000, Roger Burton West wrote:
>> On Wed, Nov 04, 2009 at 10:00:13AM -0700, Melissa Proffitt wrote:
>>> My little pile of notebooks is very useful for just that reason...I figured
>>> that when I couldn't remember what year I'd read a book, I needed an
>>> auxiliary memory.  A few years after I began the log, I started keeping
>>> Excel files just listing the books with no comments to help with that end of
>>> year list.  *That* showed me that I was still missing books--of course I
>>> read _Anansi Boys_, so why isn't it in the record?  Or _The Game_, which is
>>> just embarrassing.
>> I manage this mostly by putting a book in the list the moment I finish
>> it - even if that means getting out of bed to make the note...
> And this is where we notice that Melissa is Lazy.  :)
>>> (See how I said "different from"?  I know all-y'all on the other side of the
>>> Atlantic say "different to" and I am always conscious of the difference when
>>> I say or write it.)
>> Hang on, I thought you were in the USA? "Different to" in BrE is
>> generally a sign of an uneducated or careless writer, or at least
>> someone deliberately trying for that voice.
> Whether or not it's *acceptable* in British English, Americans just don't
> use that construction ever.  It's true, I don't recall seeing it in print
> nearly so often as hearing it (and I was talking about speech, not writing,
> but I realize now that wasn't very clear in the first post).  This
> particular phrase was pointed out to my college linguistics class by the
> professor (who was Australian and a wealth of information about how
> Australians and New Zealanders really have very different accents) as part
> of a discussion on regional variants.  I don't remember that he ever talked
> about where that divergence happened, unfortunately.  It's stuck with me all
> these years.  Not that I'm trying to tell the English how they speak, of
> course, so I'm glad to have more specific input from you.
> Otter, we also talked about "different than" and concluded that it must be
> some localized phenomenon.  I say that all the time and I don't know where I
> picked it up, because I lived all over the US while I was growing up (but
> never in New England).
> Melissa  

One can be "different to" another, as well as different from them.  I 
think "different than" is quite an old phrase, and was originally based 
on a grammatical mistake.  Today, it is considered a "practical" usage, 
much like ending sentences with prepositions are beginning to be 
accepted.  I still cringe to hear it, however.

Of course prepositions, like other parts of speech, are different in 
Latin and Greek from prepositions in English, and I understand that some 
of the old rules of English grammar are misconceptions based on rules of 
Latin grammar.

Mark A.

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