Converging to Diversity

The English language gets a bad rap. It’s hard to learn, the “rules” are inconsistent and frequently broken, it’s got so many irregular verbs that the regular verbs are living in a small enclave and battening down the hatches to avoid the onslaught, and that’s before we even get started on the idiom.

But there are rules. And the English language would be grateful if people didn’t wantonly break them! 😉

For example, when I was at school, we learnt a nice simple rule about Different and Similar. They are opposites, and so are the words you can pair with them: from and to. A is different from B and similar to C. Easy.

And yet, even the BBC has been saying “different to” for decades and now the North Americans have introduced “different than”. Than? Than?! It’s not even in the same spectrum as from and to!

Difference is diverging, hence you use from – things are separate FROM each other. Similarity is converging, hence the use of to – things are coming TOwards each other.

If I could enforce one grammar rule, it … actually, it wouldn’t be this one at all, but this one is easy, so it’s a decent place to start my rants about grammar rules. Just wait till I get onto the subject of “due to”!


Filed under British Expat in Canada, Writing

10 responses to “Converging to Diversity

  1. krisseycrystal

    So much love and agreement with you right now. D:

  2. Due to my subscription to ‘elmorights’, I now know not to say ‘different than’. I don’t know why she is blaming the North Americans.

  3. Dear Jen,

    I would give my left arm ro know of a textbook that teaches English in such easy to understand wordiage (Sorry, cou;dn’t resist). But, seriously, do you have any recommendations? Thanks for this post.



    • Clearly I need to write one, Doug! I don’t know much about textbooks – I learned more from fantastic teachers and reading in general than from textbooks.

      • Hear hear! I think in general, language textbooks are only really useful for people who have already ‘bought in’ to the importance of correct language usage. To get to that stage one needs to have already learnt the basics and the ‘feel’ of correct English, via demonstration (enthusiastic teachers) and immersion (well written, interesting books).

        Jen, you may like a blog I follow called “Clear writing with Mr Clarity”…

  4. john from Scotland

    As an Englishman, who is proud of our language, I can only support the rant! I believe that the book “First Aid in English” has some merit for Doug but as you correctly suggest this is dangerous territory! Ha anyone read “Eats Shoots and Leaves”?

    If you want a subject on which to rant why not the apostrophe? A poor misunderstood and mis-used thing if ever I saw one or the favourite split infinitive.

    • I haven’t read Frsi Aid in English, but you’re the second person to refer me to it recently, so clearly I should. Eats shoots and leaves is indeed good! I hope that most of my readers know what to do with apostrophes, but I share your sympathy for it and will add it to my list for future posts.

  5. Pingback: It’s gets its comeuppance! | elmowrites

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