Date: Fri, 24 Apr 1998 10:22:08 -0500
From: Mark Mandel
Subject: other Xs than Y

Andrea Vine asks:

I am slogging through email standards documents at the moment. Twice in the
same document (RFC 2046, for those of
you who're interested) I have found the construction "other blah-blahs than
foobar ..." In both encounters, I had a bit of
difficulty parsing the phrase, and so had to re-read it several times.
Finally I inserted an additional "other" to appease my linguistic processor; the
actual phrases now read:

> For other subtypes of "text" {other} than "text/plain", the semantics
> of the charset parameter should be defined to be identical to those
> specified here for "text/plain", ...

> Other media types {other} than subtypes of "text" might choose to
> employ the charset parameter as defined here, but...

[I have re-marked the quoted text with marginal ">" and circumpended
{} around the "other"s that I infer Andrea inserted. -- MAM]

(Doesn't this make you want to run out and get yourself a whole mess o'
standards docs?) Anyway, I'm wondering if
the original construction is proper, grammatically speaking; is "other than" a
separable construction? Certainly it is
difficult for me to parse. Personally I would have omitted the first "other" in
both cases, but the standard was already
finalized before I ever set my eyes on it (and they're rolling around with great
abandon there!)

Andrea Vine
Software i18n consultant

I've seen "other Xs than Y" fairly often and don't recall having any trouble
with it -- well, maybe the first time I saw it, but I
have long since considered it analogous to, say, "a {different / newer} coat
than the one he was wearing yesterday". In
fact, I boggled at Andrea's doubling of "other": it seems redundant it ;-)\ .

By the way, I would have been *totally* baffled by "i18n" in Andrea's job title
if I hadn't already crashed into it where I
work. I am told that it stands for "internationalization" ("i" + 18 letters +
"n"), and, I think, "i14e" for "internationalize" by the
same principle, these being two extremely long-to-type words (howsoever
trippingly they may roll off the tongue) that
are in heavy use among those whose jobs involve them.

Mark A. Mandel : Senior Linguist : mark[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]
Dragon Systems, Inc. : speech recognition : +1 617 796-0267
320 Nevada St., Newton, MA 02160, USA :
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