Trans Pacific relations

This post is putting together some bits and pieces resolving old grievances. Lots of people hate the spread of ‘American culture’ through television, internet, &c. That’s fair enough, but we must remember to keep things in perspective and not confuse the bad consumer culture which is not unique to America with the real living culture that comes from people pursuing good.

Recently I signed up for a certain US-based homeschool distance education thing. It’s a great course, but a couple of things jumped out.

Different Than/To/From

When young I was told that saying Different Than was illogical and a horrible Americanism and a betrayal of Good English. Different From was the correct phrase. Different To could be tolerated.

You may think this a persnicketty tiddly little point, but good to get it cleared up before it gets infected.

For treatment scroll down to the end of this Excerpt from Bill Bryson’s Book “Mothertongue” where he credits the stricture to one Rev Robert Lowth. The whole idea of a standardised, unchanging vernacular language seems to be an 18th century invention.

So don’t worry too much about the niceties of English grammar – English is renowned for not making sense. Learn Latin instead.

The Order of Declensions

When my parents learnt their Latin nouns they recited: mensa, mensa, mensam; mensae, mensae, mensa … Nominative, Vocative, Accusative; Genitive, Dative and Ablative. When their parents learnt Latin they did the same. When their parents learnt Latin, it was the same again, and so on out of living memory.

When I came to choose a Latin course, lo and behold, there was another word order out there: Nominative, Genitive, Dative, Accusative, Ablative. Mensa, mensae, mensae, mensam, mensa – losing the nice ternary rhythm. What’s this, said I, these Americans have the cheek to change the venerable declension order of my noble English ancestors?!?

Again, you may think it a persnicketty tiddly little thing, but good to get it sorted out before it can cause any trouble.

For treatment look at Wikipedia’s article on Instruction in Latin and Order of Declension.

Turns out my venerable declension order dates back only to 1866 when Benjamin Hall Kennedy rearranged the order to make them rhyme – a little like rearranging a library by the size and colour of the books. America’s order goes back to the Byzantine era. Trumped by a couple of thousand years.

So, in conclusion, I was a bigoted nationalistic idiot. Let this blog post help any other idiots like me find the truth.


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