The Grammar Grouch is more dyspeptic than usual today. The thing which has him in high dudgeon is that totally, woefully, abysmally wrong pairing of the prepositions “between” and “to” in expressing the distance in whatever context from one item to another.
Please read those last five words again: from one item to another. In instances such as this, from and to go together like love and marriage, as the song says. On second thought, that’s a bad analogy: Those two don’t always work well together, and the song’s “horse and carriage” isn’t any better. How about hotdogs and mustard? Okay, so you prefer ketchup. Fuhgetabout it. I tried. Ah, I’ve got it: tennis and tennis shoes.
But I digress. The point is that anybody who has half an ear for the English language goes into near apoplexy on hearing the equivalence of a fingernail run across a blackboard at the expression “between x TO z.” It’s as nonsensical as Donald Trump’s (I purposely didn’t address him as President) accusation that President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower.
People, people, people! It’s “between x AND z.” If you don’t like “and” for some reason, and prefer “to,” use it with “from,” for goodness sakes. “The time required to boil an egg is FROM five TO eight minutes.” Or, “The time required to boil an egg is BETWEEN five AND eight minutes.” But the time to boil an egg is not “BETWEEN five TO eight minutes.” One turns greener than an over-boiled egg at hearing or reading that. It grates on the ear like … well, you know.
Et tu, Fourth Estate?
This inappropriate juxtaposition of prepositions is bad enough when done by laymen. When done by journalists, whose bread and butter (hey, there’s a good example of appropriate pairing) is the English language, it’s inexcusable. And they do it with ever more frequency. Just last night, I encountered with dismay an example in the Palm Beach Post: “About half of the works in the exhibit can be yours – if you have between $22,000 to $4.8 million.” The guy who wrote that was the editor of the arts-and-entertainment section, not just a staff writer. How can he correct such foibles in his writers if he doesn’t know any better himself?
Here’s another one in the Post, this time by a copy editor, who stuck it right up there in the subheadline for a Martha Stewart column, where it was easy to spot: “Each of these recipes will serve between 6 to 8.” Doesn’t the person writing that hear how awful it sounds?
I leave you, dear readers, with this piece of inappropriate prepositional pairing in a newsletter by a promotional writer for Dr. Al Sears, the high-profile anti-aging physician in the Palm Beaches: “Ancient bones found in the Dikika region of Ethiopia were dated between 3.2 million to 3.5 million years ago.”
An advanced civilization? Who knows? But there’s a way to find out. Search for their prepositional pairings: “between x TO z,” or “between x AND z.”