Today I’m addressing the difference between “among” and “between”; in reality, this issue actually relates to practical mathematics. (No, don’t close down now; there will NOT be a pop-quiz at the end of this blog!)

Simply stated, you can only “between” two things: devil and deep blue sea; Scylla and Charybdis; here and there; etc. Think of it as a straight line (yep, here comes the math … breathe!):

If you have Point A at one end and Point B at the other, any Point C still on that line is “between A and B”; in fact, any point on that line HAS to be “between” the two endpoints.

A                                             C                                             B

Devil                                      Me                                         Sea

However, once you bring in another factor for consideration, there’s no way to make it be “between” the three or more options; it’s now “among” them! You now choose among the blue, the red and the yellow dresses or ties; you decide among the career choices of doctor, lawyer or Indian chief; you must opt among the choices of going here, there and everywhere (yeah, that’s stretching the metaphor, but the point’s valid, anyway).

To visualize this, look at the math: If you have one option at Point A, another at Point B and a third at Point C, A choice can only be “between” two of those points. Think of it as if it were on a graph (Oh, God, he’s bringing in actual math, and even, (gulp) GRAPHS … LA, LA, LA, LA, LA …!)

Calm Down, I didn’t say you had to solve for x or anything, it’s just a way to visualize it, so maybe you never miss it again!

Where was I? Oh yes, the graph picture. Let’s say you’re picking a tie- or dress-color:

A                                                                             C

(red)                                                                    (blue)

 B

(yellow)

Okay, now show me how something can be “between” all three of those choices.

It could be between red and yellow:

A                                                                             C

(red)                                                                      (blue)

                                                                                             choice

B

(yellow)

It could also be between blue and yellow (though I can’t get it to show that way here; visualize the “choice” about 2/3 of the way over):

A                                                                             C

(red)                                                                      (blue)

choice

B

(yellow)

It might even be… between red and blue:

A                                                                             C

(red)                               choice                      (blue)

B

(yellow)

It just can’t be “between” all three! It has to be somewhere “among” them:

A                                                                             C

   (red)                                                                      (blue)

choice

B

(yellow)

The only question now is, have I made this clearer, or just chased away the math-phobic readers? Only time will tell.

Anyway, tune in tomorrow; I promise no math in that one!

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