Thursday, January 23, 2014

Different to revisited

The preposition that most commonly follows 'different', on both sides of the Atlantic, is 'from' - 'She's very different from her sister'. In North America, however, some people also say 'different than', and in Britain, some people also say 'different to'. A year or so ago I discovered that I seem to be one of the latter, on some occasions, at least.
About nine months ago I wrote a post on different to (link below), on how much it is used, and on how acceptable it is, in British English. In this post, I want to take a more historical view, with the aid of Google Books clippings facility, which I've only recently discovered. Click on any of the clippings to see the original at Google Books.

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Here is one nineteenth century American's reaction, when on arriving in Britain he started hearing 'different to':

English and Scottish Sketches by an American, Oliver Prescott Hiller, London 1857

'Mr White' was 'one of the foremost literary and musical critics of his day' [Wikipedia]. When they say that ; 'different to' was 'nearly universal' and was used 'without exception', they seem to be exaggerating somewhat, as that is certainly not the picture you get from Google Books.
A few years later, another American, Fitzedward Hall [Wikipedia], who eventually settled in Britain, and made a major contribution to the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, took a rather more benign view:

Modern English, Fitzgerald Hall, New York 1873

In fact people had been worrying about 'different to' from at least the 1760s. In The Rudiments of English Grammar [Wikipedia], first published in 1761, Joseph Priestley thought Smollett's use of 'different to', in the following sentence 'improper'

'The English were very different people then to what they are at present'

attributed to Tobias Smollett

Joseph Priestley - The Rudiments of English Grammar 3rd Edition 1772

The Rudiments of English Grammar was reprinted in The Critical Review of 1768 [Google Books], which, ironically, had been edited by Smollett himself until five years earlier:
Incidentally, Joseph Priestley appears to have used a very similar construction himself on at least one occasion:

The Theological and Miscellaneous Works, Joseph Priestley, John Towill Rutt 1831

And in 1770, Robert Baker wrote the following in Remarks on the English Language: In the Nature of Vaugelas's Remarks on the French, 1770 [Google Books] and reprinted in several publications

The Critical Review 1771

Smollett's sentence - 'The English were very different people then to what they are at present' - was later taken up by Lindley Murray as something to be corrected in English Grammar: Adapted to the Different Classes of Learners, first published in 1795, and which was to become the most influential grammar book of the first half of the nineteenth century. This sentence of Smollett's was to be repeatedly used in grammar books as an example of bad usage, or as a sentence to be corrected.

English Grammar: Adapted to the Different Classes of Learners - Lindley Murray 1810

Examples from the 17th Century

Merriam-Webster Dictionary of English Usage say the Oxford English Dictionary 'cites a 1603 comedy coauthored by Thomas Dekker for the use of different to'. I can't find a comedy, but he did write a pamphlet in 1603, The Wonderful Yeare, in which he celebrates England and Scotland combining under one monarch (although it would be another hundred years or so before they would become one kingdom) where he used 'differing than':
S. George and S. Andrew that many hundred yeares had defied one another, were now sworne brothers: England and Scotland (being parted only with a narrow Riuer, and the people of both Empires speaking a language lesse differing than english within it selfe, as the prouidence had enacted, that one day those two Nations should marry one another) are now made sure together, and king Iames his Coronation, is the solemne wedding day.

The Wonderful Yeare, [University of Oregon]

But I have found this, which is also from 1603:

A Treatise on Three Conversions 1603 - Robert Parsons [Wikipedia]

Other examples from the seventeenth century are fairly few and far between, but do exist:

Journals of the House of Lords 1642

Divi Britannici: Being a Remark Upon the Lives of All the Kings of this Isle, Winston Churchill 1660

The Present State of the Ottoman Empire, Paul Rycaut 1670

The Royal Commentaries of Peru, Garcilaso de la Vega, tr. Sir Paul Rycaut 1688

An Enquiry into, and Detection of the Barbarous Murther of the Late Earl of Essex , Robert Ferguson, Hugh Speke 1689

Examples from the 18th century

These are a bit easier to find

The Case of the Learned ... , John Conrad Francis de Hatzfeld 1724 - also other examples [Google Books]

Henry Fielding - The History of Sir Harry Herald and Sir Edward Haunch 1755

The Complete Steward: or, The Duty of a Steward to his Lord, John Mordant 1761

This is the full quote from Smollet's Voltaire, part of which had caused so much fuss.

The Works of M. de Voltaire, translated by Tobias Smollett 2nd Edition 1762

In the same volume, Smollett also used 'differently ... to':

 

A new history of the Holy Bible, Thomas Stackhouse 1767

Letter form Frances Scudamore to Lady Saville The Lady's Magazine 1778

Samuel Smith MP, quoted in the Parliamentary Debate on the Test and Corporation Acts 1790

Parliamentary Register House of Commons 1792

An essay on the principles of human knowledge, Edward Waring 1794

The Parliamentary Register 1797

Examples from the 19th century - the world of literature

Quite a few examples here from literary greats - Jane Austen, two of the Bronté sisters, Thackaray and Dickens, as well as from literary magazines:

Jane Austen - Northanger Abbey 1817

The Monthly Review 1807

The Works of William Robertson, London 1826

The Mirror of Literature, London 1829

Charles Darwin - Beagle Diary 1831

William Makepeace Thackery - Vanity Fair 1847-8

 

Charlotte Bronte - Jane Eyre 1847

Ann Bronte - The Tenant of Wildfell Hall 1859

George Elliot - Adam Bede 1859

Charles Dickens - The Miner's Daughter

Examples from the 19th century - the world of politics

Thomas Paine, London 1819

The Mirror of Parliament Vol 1, London 1839

What is Socialisnm? Robert Owen, London 1841

different to what and that ...

It's my impression that different to is most often used before clauses beginning with what or that, as in these examples:

John Conrad Francis de Hatzfeld 1724

The Analytical Review Vol 9 1791, Thomas Christie

Report ... The Navy Board, London 1817

Blackwood's Magazine Vol 35 1834

The Lancet Vol 1, London 1839

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