Your Pain Is Our Pleasure

We proofread your Google Docs or Microsoft Word files within 24 hours. We hate grammatical errors with passion. Learn More


John C

Joined: March 6, 2011
Comments posted: 13
Votes received: 7

No user description provided.

Recent Comments

Note that "pounder" receives the same treatment. And it's a good illustration of how the shortening of vowels like that can really speed up the speech. Aside from that, an even more prominent feature of her accent is the rising tones at the end of clauses that make me sure she's part Valley Girl. ;)

John C July 15, 2012, 3:24am

1 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

I was going to chime in about eight comments ago but deleted without submitting, thinking that I was being too full of myself. Alas, it appears I do have something to offer, that hasn't been mentioned, yet.

The gist of my comment was that the original question does not yield to logic and reason or even to history.
Stop reading now if you're really getting bored with this dead horse. Read on if you can stand a little more pontificating on my part.
If you google the subject you will find many debates on the web, none of which, I've found, offer a more convincing argument than "This is the rule I learned in school". At least this thread has maintained a decent level of civility.

Here's the thing. Language does not evolve from the top down. There is no authority (except in France) deciding what a particular word will mean in the future, how it will be spelled, what part of speech it will be, how sentences will be constructed... Now expand the list to include prepositions, conjunctions and everything there is about language. The point is that people speak and write differently from the way they used to because someone started doing it in the past; We don't necessarily know why; Maybe it made the language flow more smoothly; Maybe it was just a mistake. But others liked it, or just got used to it, and took up the change Now the change is correct. Good luck adjudicating such a change using logic and reason. Even if you try to trace the history of the change, you tend to run into dead ends and disputed facts rather quickly. A good example of this is the split infinitive I used a few sentences ago.



John C June 5, 2012, 4:52am

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

I don't confuse England with Britain, though many English seem to, as they are more than 80% of the UK population. I can't vouch for how it was taught in the fifties and sixties, though my English friends were educated in that era. I might have to ask them if they remember anything through the haze of the sixties.
It's true that the bulk of my exposure to British English has been through BBC presenters, news readers, and one Scottish expat. Perhaps there is a similar skew in foreign exposure to American English.

Anyway, I maintain my stand that 'to' and 'from' are functionally equivalent in this usage, and am not worried about how it afflicts the English. A far worse affliction of the English is their diminishing ability to pronounce their rhotic consonants. :)

John C June 3, 2012, 5:04pm

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

Isn't it weird how experiences differ? I'm not from Britain, but I consume a fair amount of British media and have British friends. I can't think of a case where I have heard a Brit say "different from". I've heard "different to" so many times that I'm sure "different from" would have triggered alarms in my head.

John C June 3, 2012, 12:31pm

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

"Even though I'm just a kid I know the rule: similar to and different from!"
I remember being just a kid, when I knew everything simply because the real world hadn't had time to contract everything I knew. Just because you learned a rule doesn't mean... much of anything, really.

'from' and 'to' are equivalent in my mind simply because they function as prepositions, and we seem to need a preposition between 'similar/different' and something. You can reason that 'similar' and 'different' imply movement, and therefore dictate the usage of 'to' and 'from', but reason will drive you into a deep dark abyss of insanity when applied to language, especially a creole language such as English.

I'm not even complaining about 'different than' anymore, though it still sets my teeth on edge. It has a usage history stretching into centuries and it is often used in places where either 'from' or 'to' would lead to very awkward sentences.

Go back about 53 weeks in this thread to read yet another rehash of this argument.

See the Hairy Scot post from 17 Nov, 2011 for examples of 'than' being preferable.

John C June 3, 2012, 12:25pm

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

Ouch! Those apostrophe gremlins stalk me everywhere, and the punctuation police are never far behind, damn their eyes.

"Different than" seems to have become pandemic here in the states and it still makes my teeth grind. My dentist disapproves.

John C May 28, 2011, 6:12pm

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse


THAT has to be a typo. "That" isn't even a preposition, it's a conjunction, which makes its usage here wrong on any side of the Atlantic.

I'm sure the the writer meant to say THAN, and allowed a spellchecker to do the copy editing. "Than" is a conjunction, too. Unfortunately, it's usage as a preposition dates back a couple of centuries, so who am I to push on that rope?

John C May 28, 2011, 4:30am

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

Perhaps the British "different to" was originally "different compared to", the word compared now being implicit.

Google "different to" and you might find more unique opinions than there are hits. This is a very messy language, indeed.

John C March 8, 2011, 5:09pm

1 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse


From listening to the BBC, and conversing with my English friends, I have to conclude that the British "different to" has exactly the same meaning as the American "different from". That's the only sense I've ever heard it used as.

John C March 8, 2011, 4:59pm

1 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

I heard it speculated, perhaps in the Ken Burns documentary, The Civil War, that the divergence between the British use of "are" and the American use of "is" when referring to collective nouns was triggered by that war. The United States went from being a collective entity of individual states to being a single nation, at least in the minds of Northerners.

John C March 8, 2011, 8:18am

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

11/11 without pausing or breaking a sweat. I'm not an expert on the language, but as an engineer, I internalize unambiguous rules and structures fairly easily. This is one of the few (don't get me started on "one of the only") cases where English seems easy for me.

John C March 8, 2011, 8:05am

1 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

Different to seems to be the norm for the British, different from for Americans. I see nothing wrong with either of those as they don't make the mistake treating different as a comparative. Different than is (almost) always wrong, and it always grates on me, especially since I often hear and read it in the media where it's a gross abuse of the tools of the trade. A can be bigger, older, wiser, hotter, longer, etc than B but not different than B.

I can think of one awkward example where different than would be correct:

"I think A is different from B. Chris thinks C is more different than A."

In the second sentence, from is implied and the expanded sentence would read: Chris thinks C is more different from B than A is.

This is a case where using different as a comparative is legit. I did say it was awkward, didn't I?

John C March 8, 2011, 7:43am

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

To my native Wisconsin ears, a Canadian about always sounded like “aboot”, but when I would try to imitate it just didn’t quite sound right. If I say “a-boat” it seems to come out nearly perfectly, but not quite. In the Canadian “about”, that vowel sound seems to be a tiny bit longer than when I say boat. For some reason, it’s very hard for me to mimic that consistently.

Digressing to the VEE-hickle tangent. In the North Central dialect (Wisconsin, Michigan Upper Peninsula, Minnesota, and points West, the H is silent. Shawn C confused Dbfreak with his “veer-kul”. But I know why. I have friends from the non-rhotic parts of England (Exeter) and this has cropped up occasionally in our discussions of the language. I almost consider the non-rhotic English “r” to be a speech defect (snicker). When a Brit uses an “r” not followed by a vowel to attempt a phonetic spelling it almost certainly means something very close to the vowel sound we, on this side of the Atlantic, make when we say “idea”.

John C March 6, 2011, 9:21am

3 votes    Permalink    Report Abuse