Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Random Grammar Rant

I nearly put this in the middle of Hiatt's column in the previous post, but it was so irrelevant to his point that it deserved a post of its own. What is it with Americans and the use of the word 'different'? Things differ from one another, not than one another. X is different from Y, not than Y. When this sounds awkward (though it is right, nevertheless), one can modify the sentence to simply say "X and Y are different".

I see this mistake everywhere in America - in general conversation, on the evening news (not that that means much), and - worst of all - in the print media. It grates on the ear or eye. Sure, American spelling and grammar is different from that of most of the rest of the world, and that's fine; I can deal with it. But I'm told this isn't correct grammar even in America! Sure, ordinary people make occasional mistakes, and that's cool too; I know I'm not perfect. But I've never seen a mistake so widespread; one expects better of professional writers, at least.

Ok, done ranting. Question: What's the difference between zeugma and syllepsis? Those of you who know why I'm asking probably read Madeira, M'dear. I'm a little confused - some of it seems more like syllepsis than zeugma to me, though Martin seems to disagree.


Deepak said...

this seems to make it clear:

Apparently Zeugma is when you try syllepsis and goof up. It sounds very unsatisfactory. I remember reading a long time ago however that zeugma is when you use the word in two different senses like say one literal and one figurative, or perhaps - "he bolted the door and his dinner".

my pet peeve - people who claim to be begging a question when all they're doing is raising one.

Nitish said...

That's right, Ditch; most of the sources I checked seem to agree with Lars Eighner. In which case, Madeira, M'dear seems to contain syllepsis more than zeugma. "She made no reply/ Up her mind, and a dash for the door" looks like syllepsis. On the other hand, "[H]e hastened to put out the cat/ The wine, his cigar and the lamps" is zeugma, since you can't put out wine.

Deepak said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.