The English language, in the United States at least, is in free fall. Everywhere – in newspapers, periodicals, online stock market analyses, health reports, television news, you name it – usage mistakes have polluted the language at a rapid rate over the past, say, decade.
I simply don’t remember encountering these glaring errors in decades past. Has people’s command of the basics of English declined like the stock market in a recession, or have I become obnoxiously punctilious about the mechanics of writing since my nine-year stint as a magazine copy chief? Don’t answer that.
It’s probably both. But if that’s the case, where the heck was I when some of the jarring grammar foibles I see frequently today were popping up?
Actually, I don’t see how I could have been unaware of the butchering of a particular phrase that occurs all too often these days. I refer to the between … and phrase, which is increasingly appearing as between … to. What am I talking about? Here’s an example:
In Steve McDonald’s Bond Advantage newsletter of May 2, this sentence appears: “But it expects to increase earnings between this year and next between 4.5% to 14.5%. McDonald is a smart guy, and he probably didn’t write that; it likely was his copywriter.
What’s odd is that the phrase was used twice, correctly the first time but incorrectly the second.
Ladies and gentlemen, you can’t have between X to Z, between something to something – any more than you can have your cake and eat it, too. It just doesn’t make sense. Can’t the writers of these abominations hear how jarring that is? It baffles me almost as much as people’s support for that enormously incompetent and immoral cretin we have for president. Between … to sounds like the broken English of someone whose native tongue is another language and is in the rudimentary stage of learning English. The preposition between indicates that two items are in play, and when you join two items, the connection is via the conjunction and, not the preposition to. The latter goes with the preposition from: The storm system extended from Miami to Key West.
Here’s a good explanation from Penn State:
Between … and / From … to. These combinations are not interchangeable, but many writers mistakenly combine “between” with “to” and “from” with “and.” When defining two or more end parameters, “between” is most effectively linked with “and”; “from” most effectively linked with “to.”
Webster’s New World Collegiate defines between with examples: (1) in or through the space that separates (two things) (between the house and the garage) (2) in or of the time, amount or degree that separates (two things); intermediate to (between blue and green).
Notice that and is the word connecting the items in each example? It wasn’t between the house to the garage, nor between blue to green. I’m sorry for people who can’t hear how awful that sounds. They are simply tone deaf.
Grammar Gone Bad
The bond newsletter error was the only incidence I have saved of late, but I’ve seen it a number of times in newspaper stories, and heard it not long ago on a cable TV news program. These print and broadcast utterances are by credentialed newspersons. They are the ones who set the example copied by young people and foreigners alike who are trying to improve their English language skills.
A writer should never make such a mistake, but a copy editor should never let it slip by. The problem with newspapers these days is that economics have forced them to pare their staffs to the bone, and copy editors simply don’t read a lot of stuff that goes through, I’m convinced.
This decline in facility with the English language is borne out not just on the local level, but is revealed in national media, as well. My eyes fairly popped out when I came across this Associated Press story in the Palm Beach Post (AP serves news media across the globe):
“Negotiators were still working Tuesday on how to pay for the expanded tax breaks, though Republican lawmakers were optimistic that a deal was eminent.” Did you just fall off your chair, as I almost did when I read that? An AP reporter writing out of Washington, D.C., on an activity in the U.S. Congress, and hesh (my gender-neutral pronoun) doesn’t know the difference between eminent and imminent? (Notice I wrote between/and, not between/to. Lordie, why should I have to point that out?)
All right, the rant is over – until next time.