Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: Swapping Horses.

“Swapping horses while crossing the stream” is H.W. Fowler’s term for vacillating between two constructions (Modern English Usage 589 [1st ed.]). Thus, someone writes that “the rate of divorce is almost as high in Continental Europe, other things being equal, than it is in the United States.” The first “as” needs a second one in answer, but instead is ill greeted by “than.” Examples don’t exactly abound in modern prose, but they’re not rare either — e.g.: o “He has given the Tilden, Simonsen, Hugo Muller and Pedler lectureships [read ‘lectures’] of the Royal Society of Chemistry.” “Isotechnica Inc.” (announcement), Fin. Post, 12 Apr. 1997, at 33. (He has been given — or awarded — lectureships and has given lectures, but he hasn’t given lectureships.) o “Beardstown coach Don Dillon would rather have Maltby handing off instead of [read ‘than’] catching passes.” Jim Benson, “Moroa Faces Beardstown in ‘Third Round,'” Pantagraph (Bloomington, Ill.), 31 Oct. 1997, at B3. (“Rather” is completed by “than,” not “instead of”; but “instead of” would suffice if “rather” were omitted.) For information about the Language-Change Index click here. ——————– Quotation of the Day: “A word may change its form, to any extent, without change of meaning; it may take on an entirely new meaning without change of form. As a matter of fact, the words are few or none which have not done both . . . .” William Dwight Whitney, The Life and Growth of Language 49 (1875; repr. 1979).
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