Saturday, September 17, 2016

So this really isn't worth reading at all.

Mr F is very different to, than, and from, many other kids.
I had a bit of a break yesterday in between some hearings, and was doing some light reading while I ate lunch.

I read an article with some spoilers about the Justice League movie and The Force Awakens, and came across this:

Here’s a quote from Adam Driver discussing the film’s tonal shift—saying that, just as Empire Strikes Back was different to A New HopeEpisode VIII is different to The Force Awakens:

I found it kind of jarring, because I had just read a different article about a scene from Iron Man 3 (look I told you it was light reading, I was in between complicated legal battles and wanted my brain to cool off a bit), and in that Iron Man article an actress had said:

I signed on to do something that was a substantial role. She wasn’t entirely the villain – there have been several phases of this – but I signed on to do something very different to what I ended up doing.

The thing that made me pause about both of those was:

"different to."

Different to.

I've always said different than.

I'm not some kind of Grammar Monster -- that's more Andrew Leon's bag, although I'm sure he would see it as "Grammar Crusader" -- but when something starts showing up all over the place and I haven't heard about it, I feel like I missed the boat somehow, like everyone got together one day and said hey let's all say different to and make Briane feel like a nerd, which is 100% how I assume the world operates.

So I looked it up and found out I'm either wrong anyway or maybe a bit right, so far as 'proper' grammar goes. This site says that traditionally it was different from, but that different to is gaining acceptance. "Different than," it says, can be used but is usually used with clauses rather than single words -- which means that of those quotes, the Star Wars guy probably had it right (the movies being a proper noun and so hence a singular kind of thing) while Iron Man Lady got it wrong, because hers followed a clause.

Unless of course I'm totally wrong and here is the part I hate about grammar and also love, because you are always wrong or always right (and truthfully, I think grammar matters only insofar as you are making yourself understood, but I also think that you ought to know the basis precepts of grammar and make conscious choices to ignore them, like Ezra Pound might have done). Anyway, this site says that the to and than forms are the ones that are correct:

First, one point in favor of different to and different than is that these constructions are common and have been common for centuries. They have appeared in works of great writers and can be found in books from editorially fastidious publishers, and no English speaker has trouble understanding them. Different than, which is especially common in the U.S., appears about twice for every three instances of different from in 21st-century newswriting from the U.S. and is common (though less so) in American books from this century. Different to, meanwhile, is nearly as common as different from in recent U.K. newswriting and is easily found in U.K. writing of all kinds not just from this century but from as long ago as the 18th century.

So those are "facts", quotes needed because there is no source for those facts listed and when you say stuff like "editorially fastidious" and "about" you are saying "these are judgment calls, opinions, and guesses" -- what constitutes an editorally fastidious person? Where's the cutoff?-- and the article goes on to suggest that despite than and to being common and making sense for other reasons, you shouldn't use them...

... so I went to the Oxford English Dictionary, which has the distinction of having been more or less originally written by a madman, for the definitive answer, but my computer wouldn't log on. So there you have it.


Andrew Leon said...

Without looking for sources, I'm going to say that "different to" is just wrong. Because it is. It's the same as using "literally" to mean "not literally." Things can be wrong, completely wrong, and completely accepted.
"Different than" is fine though "different from" is the preferred option.

I can be a grammar monster. I'm fine with that.

Briane Pagel said...

You could be the Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde... OF GRAMMAR.

I agree: Different "to" feels wrong. It's jarring. I think "different than" and "differs from" are probably the most correct-sounding.

Andrew Leon said...

Whether something sounds wrong or right isn't always the way to tell since some regional things will sound wrong while being completely acceptable and some regional things are just completely wrong; however, it can be a good way to tell.
The thing here, though, is that the word "different" is being used to contrast with something else, and "to" is the incorrect choice to go with it. It's a little like saying "I went to the store -but- bought apples and oranges," rather than using "and."

Hmm...I can go with that Jekyll and Hyde thing.