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Just between us

Some people were rattled on National Grammar Day by my remark on the Dan Rodricks show on WYPR-FM that between is not limited to use with two parties. (“Heresy! Heresy! He’s gone over to the Other Side! He’s in the pay of Geoffrey Pullum! Stop him! He’s destroying the language!”)

But just the other day I came across a passage in Robert Dallek’s Nixon and Kissinger that illustrates the exception to the between/among distinction: “Between February 25 and March 4, Kissinger resumed his shuttle diplomacy, traveling between Damascus, Tel Aviv, Cairo, Amman, Riyadh, and Bonn, before his return to the United States.”

He did not travel among those six cities; he traveled between one and another seriatim. Bryan Garner quotes Ernest Gowers quoting the Oxford English Dictionary:

Between “is still the only word available to express the relation of a thing to many surrounding things severally and individually; among expresses a relation to them collectively and vaguely: we should not say the space lying among the three points or a treaty among three Powers.”



Posted by John McIntyre at 11:02 AM | | Comments (2)


If you insist upon using words like"seriatim"(o joy! o rapture!) you shall doubtless be labeled an elitist.

Whew. I'm oh so grateful Kissinger didn't shuttle between all those places among February 25 and March 4.

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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