Dan in Burbank recently came across an article in which a speaker was quoted as saying that a mother is of “the opposite sex than” her son. The speaker gets an A in anatomy, but Dan wouldn’t grade the speaker as well on his English.
“I’ve been grinding my teeth at the increasing use of ‘different than,’” Dan wrote. “I understand ‘than’ to indicate hierarchy — taller than, dumber than, less grammatically correct than — while ‘different’ sets up an ‘apples and oranges’ comparison on the same plane, and so comes out ‘different from.’ And I don’t even want to begin to understand the thought process involved in ‘opposite?.?.?.?than.’”
“Than” is one of those words we use every day without thinking about it. Then, one day, someone calls it into question and we realize it’s not so simple.