Thursday, 26 November 2009

My hat differs from your hat

My biggest bugbear in language at the moment is the seeping in of the construction ‘different than’ instead of the correct ‘different from’. I think it’s an American usage, as I’ve heard it on US TV shows many times and also have a feeling my American friends say it. In UK English, it is incorrect and sounds so lazy it makes me flinch.

‘Different’ is starting to be used as though it’s a comparative word, where in fact it’s just an adjective, based on the verb ‘to differ’. So you’ll hear that something is ‘better than’ something else, which is correct, but then you’ll hear that it is ‘different than’ something else. It sounds horrible! “My hat is different from your hat” sounds so natural and neat because, of course, what I’m saying is: “My hat differs from your hat.”

I’m also grumpy about the ugly but increasingly prevalent ‘fed up of’. I actually saw this used in The Times the other day by a columnist I like and respect. It’s an expression that uses a literal concept of being fed with something to the point where you are full and feel jaded by it (picture feeling fully fed after a roast lunch) to express a figurative idea of having had enough. If you take the expression literally, you would never say: “I am fed up of roast chicken.” You would say: “I am fed up with roast chicken.” You have literally been fed with roast chicken. Roast chicken is the food with which you have been fed.

If I could convey to people who use this expression wrongly that the reason it’s a nice expression to use is precisely because of the visual imagery of being actually fed with something up to the limit, would they see that saying ‘fed up of’ is simply not doing justice to the expression? Read more by Maddie.