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Words June 2

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“Don Tworry, president of the University of A Few Miles Outside Earle on Highway 149, said the state’s system of higher education has become more efficient in recent years with partnerships between and among colleges.” Not just between, but also among. Dr. Tworry is observing the old rule that between is used to express a relationship involving two persons or things (“Just between you and me, she’s older than she says”), and among is used when the relationship involves more than two (“At first slowly, then more rapidly, disillusionment spread among Bush’s supporters”). But it’s a little more complicated than that. Random House says that between “also continues to be used, as it has been throughout its entire history, to express a relationship of persons or things considered individually, no matter how many: Between holding public office, teaching, and writing, she has little free time.” Couldn’t we just say that mistakes were made? From a letter to the editor of a church newspaper: “I take issue with several of David Doe’s statements on John Paul II’s legacy, but space will only permit me to address the one in the fifth paragraph. He calls the flagitious behavior of the priests in the sex scandal ‘inappropriate sexual behavior.’ Mr. Doe needs a dictionary. “Belching in polite company is inappropriate behavior. The priests’ behavior could be described as ‘debauchery,’ ‘a heinous criminal act,’ ‘an abomination to the Lord,’ ‘a vile act,’ ‘a loathsome beastly sin’ or ‘a horrifying crime.’ ” Flagitious does not refer, as one might think, to football officials who throw penalty flags when they shouldn’t, and don’t throw them when they should. It means “shamefully wicked” or “infamous.” Come to think of it, I’ve seen refs who were flagitious even by that definition. Most of those who’ve worked the Arkansas-Texas games, in fact. Kenneth, what are the frequency? Bob Lancaster notes that while the daily newspaper was ridiculing a state legislator for saying “The winds of change is blowing,” on the same day in the same section of the paper one of its own columnists was writing “And what is the criteria?”

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