Today’s small rant about grammar and other things

Y’know, I’ve almost gotten used to seeing the phrase different than.  It’s wrong, mind you, but it’s everywhere, and I can even sort of understand how people who don’t ever think about words and how they work could reach the conclusion that different than is correct.

However… where the hell did different to come from?  Is it because of some pseudo-educated assumption that, since we say similar to, we must also say different to?  (If you have an explanation for why anyone would write different to in place of different from — an explanation better than “language changes so shut the fuck up you grammer nazi” or “who cares lots of people make typos so what?” — please share.  I don’t like not understanding things.)

The cause of today’s rant (emphasis mine):  “And any kind of genius requires a mind that works differently to most people’s[…]”  (You can read the entire article from which that quotes comes, if you’re so inclined.) There’s also a lot in the article about how being creative is a mental illness (’cause anyone who doesn’t fit perfectly into the middle 68 percent of the bell curve is totally whack-a-mole, right?), and some misuse of semicolons.  (Those, as much as I hate to say it, may have been thrown in just so the writer could prove that he’d attended university.  Score one for Vonnegut.*  Back in his day, though, maybe people who used semicolons used them correctly.)  I wouldn’t care at all about different to if it was on some personal blog or in a comment on Facebook — informal writing is often, y’know, informal — but an article concerning Serious Literature (Sylvia Plath is mentioned by name more than once) should not contain blatant grammatical errors; it ruins every Serious Literature student’s image of being inherently superior to the rest of us.


*Kurt Vonnegut once said, “Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. […] All they do is show you’ve been to college.”


About Thomas Weaver

I’m a writer and editor who got into professional editing almost by accident years ago when a friend from university needed someone to copyedit his screenplay about giant stompy robots (mecha). Having discovered that I greatly enjoy this kind of work, I’ve been putting my uncanny knack for grammar and punctuation, along with an eclectic mental collection of facts, to good use ever since as a Wielder of the Red Pen of Doom. I'm physically disabled, and for the past several years, I’ve lived with my smugly good-looking twin Paul, who writes military science fiction and refuses to talk about his military service because he can’t. Sometimes Paul and I collaborate on stories, and sometimes I just edit whatever he writes. It's worked out rather well so far. My list of non-writing-related jobs from the past includes librarian, art model, high school teacher, science lab gofer… Although I have no spouse or offspring to tell you about, I do have six cats. (The preferred term is "Insane Cat Gentleman.") I currently spend my time blogging, reading, editing, and fending off cats who like my desk better than my twin’s.
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9 Responses to Today’s small rant about grammar and other things

  1. There’s a movement afoot to eliminate adverbs. I think pronouns are on the endangered list too. And when did “fun” become a verb? It used to be a noun. That one just snuck in under the damned door.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Laura L. says:

    I always get nervous when you post grammar rants. You usually steer clear of the obvious they’re/there/their things. I make those mistakes, too, but it is always a typo in those cases. You mention things that make me look aghast and wonder, “Do I do that?” You explain why things are wrong, and I nod, and most of the time I can recall some wizened teacher of English grammar imparting the same rules. That doesn’t mean I’ve remembered them. Then there is the old “casual” writing, which is primarily what I do. But still. I hate looking stoopid.

    Then I cheer up because I can fall back on the fact that I’m NOT A Writer (I just write for fun) and I never finished college, so, nyayh, to all you Ivory Tower Elitists and your Grammar Sledge Hammers. (Now I’ll scan all my posts for “different than” (which I might find) and “different to” (which I don’t think I will).)

    I have wondered, over the years, about the difference in modes of thinking between creatives and less-creative people, between really intelligent people and less-than-really-intelligent people, and between me and the rest of the world. We all like to think we’re unique snowflakes. Everyone likes to think that they think differently from others, even if the behaviors show them to be in lock step with the majority.

    Ooooh. Lookit. My comment is longer than your post. 🙂 And I still haven’t posted anything for my blog today. Now I’m exhausted.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You don’t look stupid on your blog. You’ve never looked stupid. You DO look like someone who has had it up to HERE with a lot of needlessly stressful situations and people, and who is dealing with said stresses as well as anyone could expect (and better than a lot of people, myself included, could manage themselves).

    I had no idea I was coming across as trying to be a “unique snowflake,” by the way. I apologize.


    • Laura L. says:

      Huh? :::hands you another cookie::: Nothing to apologize for. I was writing seriously but with a LOT of tongue in cheek, abusing the sarcasm (or is it irony?) font. You’ve not come across as a unique-snowflake-wannabe. (My little rant about Ivory Tower & yada yada was pure goofing off.)


  4. Mei-Mei says:

    Ahh I love Mr. Vonnegut, but you will have to pry my semicolons from my cold, dead fingers. (Maybe because I’ve been to college? ;)) Though to be fair, I use them more in my technical writing than in my creative writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. My understanding is that “different than” is an Americanism, and “different to” is used in Commonwealth English and its derivatives, such as Hiberno-English.

    Liked by 1 person

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