And Now, the Oscar for Best Supporting Honey Wagon Driver

Long after the movie ends and everyone else has left the theatre, I sit in the dark watching the credits, mesmerized by the thousands of people it takes to make a movie: the loaders, the gaffers, the grips, the best boys. The Pre-Dubbers and Print Mixers, the Boom Operators and Stunt Team, the Foley Artists and Second Unit Wardrobe Production Assistants. The Transportation Captain and the Parking Coordinator. The Second Second Assistant to the Backup Accountant for Food Services in Charge of Estimating the Value of Edible Food Composted at the End of Each Day for Tax Reasons. But my all-time, all-time favorites are the Honey Wagon Drivers. (Yes, there is such a credit.) If you promise not to tell, it’s a great way for aspiring directors to get the inside scoop. So to speak.

But here’s the credit I wait for and never see: Chief Grammarian Responsible for Knowing the Difference Between Different Than and Different From. (“What?” you gasp. “Different than might be different from different from?” If you just gasped that, you need to pay attention.) No such credit ever appears, and I am shocked. But imagine, if you will . . . .

 

OVER BLACK

 

WATER BUBBLES AND ROILS.

FADE IN:

EXT. VIETNAMESE VILLAGE – MORNING – 1967

 

ECU - FISH EYES BOILING IN IRON POT.

 

PULL BACK to reveal thatched huts and smoke rising from many cooking fires. DIRECTOR and SPECIAL FX STUNT COORDINATOR follow PRODUCER as he strides quickly past huts, cooking fires, and CHIEF GRAMMARIAN.

 

STUNT COORDINATOR

(consults clipboard)

At ten o'clock, the helicopters spray agent orange

to defoliate all the crops, then after lunch, we

drop napalm to fry the village.

 

PRODUCER

How much is that gonna cost?

 

Director stops. He hates Producer's cheap iron fist around the budget.

 

DIRECTOR

(frustrated)

What do you want me to do? Give them all

noogies?

 

PRODUCER

Noogies we can afford. I love the smell of noogies

in the morning. I don't see how that's any different

than torching the village.

 

Chief Grammarian overhears.

 

CHIEF GRAMMARIAN

From.

 

Producer stops, whirls, glares at Chief Grammarian.

 

PRODUCER

What!

 

CHIEF GRAMMARIAN

Different from. Different from torching the

village. Use than only with a comparative

adjective, like taller than, faster than, as in,

Apocalypse Now is better than The Deer Hunter.

Different is not a comparative adjective, so we

do not say or write different than! Not as long as

I am on this set!

 

Producer snarls. Chief Grammarian pokes Producer in the breastbone with her index finger.

 

CHIEF GRAMMARIAN (CONT'D)

Just so you understand the magnitude of the

controversy over different than versus different

from, recall Cecil B. DeMille’s epic, Gone With

the Sand, where the Ten Lost Tribes meet for

cocktails and try to solve the problems of the

Middle East. Like that, only louder!

 

Producer, Director, Stunt Coordinator stand speechless, mouths agape.

 

CHIEF GRAMMARIAN (CONT'D)

An exception. Listen up! Use different than

only in situations like this.

(clears throat, speaks slowly)

In Apocalypse Now, Robert Duvall’s demeanor

in the morning is different from what it is in the

afternoon.

(raises her eyebrows)

You with me? If we use from here, we have to add

what it is, or we're comparing Bob's demeanor

to the afternoon. Nonsensical. So here, even you

may use different than instead of different from

and all that clumsy extra wording. Just don't talk

nonsense. Difficult for you, I realize.

(pats cheek of Producer)

Close your mouth. Lot of flies around here with

all these fish eyes.

 

Producer, Director, Stunt Coordinator close their mouths, nod. But Chief Grammarian is not finished.

 

CHIEF GRAMMARIAN (CONT'D)

About forty years ago in The Careful Writer, Theodore

Bernstein wrote, and I quote, To insist on different from

regardless of the clumsiness it sometimes produces

would be to let the horse ride the horseman.

 

Stunt Coordinator hurriedly sketches on clipboard.

 

DIRECTOR

(suddenly excited)

I love that visual!

 

CHIEF GRAMMARIAN

(rolls her eyes)

I knew you would.

 

PRODUCER

How much is that gonna cost?

FADE TO BLACK

 

I see grammarians with SAG cards, Oscar nominations for Best On-Set Grammarian in a Supporting Role, credits for Special Creative Hair Stylist to Second Assistant Chief Grammarian Responsible for Knowing the Answer to the Question “Is different than different from different from?” A billion people on the edge of their seats, waiting for the envelope.

 

The Oscar for Best Editing Tool in a Supporting Role would go to WordRake for its uncanny ability to spot millions of dull and useless words so all writers can be more effective and successful. But don't take my word for it—see for yourself with a free 7-day trial.

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About Gary Kinder

Gary Kinder
Gary Kinder has taught over 1,000 writing programs for the American Bar Association, the Social Security Administration, PG&E, Kraft, Microsoft, and law firms like Jones Day, Sidley, and WilmerHale. His critically-acclaimed Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea hit #7 on the New York Times Bestsellers List.

In 2012, Gary and his team of engineers created WordRake editing software to provide writers a full-time, reliable editor; to save them time and money; and to give them the confidence their writing is as clear and concise as they can make it. The U.S. Patent & Trademark Office has awarded nine patents to WordRake's unique technology, and Harvard Law School has recognized WordRake as "Disruptive Innovation."