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Everyone who's interested in language knows American and British English have diverged a little over the centuries and we all know the easy ones like pants and pavement but I came across a new one today.

I've been reading Lee Child's Persuader1 courtesy of Cambridgeshire Library's e-book service and I've now come across the same oddity multiple times: the use of the word "either" when we would use "neither". Here's the first example I came across.

'Don't get confused which load is which,' one of them said.
'You either,' I said back.

To be honest I thought it was a typo but here's another one:

'None of your business,' he replied.
'Me either,' I said.

And another:

'Just don't screw up, asshole.'
'You either.'

By now I was getting interested so I loaded it up in Calibre and did a word search and discovered that although our hero (who is the one using "either" in all the instances above) employs this usage most of the time he doesn't always. After the first three he suddenly switches and we get:

'Just a thing,' she said. 'I feel self-conscious. I'm not very co-ordinated.'
'Neither am I.'

But then we go back and we get:

'I'm not leaving,' Elizabeth said again.
'Me either,' Richard said. 'This is where we live. We're a family.'

And finally one more "neither" with:

'I don't know.'
'Neither do I.'

I think that's every instance of both in the book and it's 4 to 2 in favour of "either" in the place we would use "neither" so my current suspicion, although I'm hoping an American speaker may be able to confirm either way, is that the "either" construction is more usual in American English.

As for the "neither" examples then either that is normal in American English if it comes at the start of the sentence or the two instance crept in because Lee Child is actually a Brit, although he's been living in the US since 1998.

  1. It's not a bad book if you like that sort of thing, which I do when I'm looking for something to read and forget. Usual Lee Child fare although slightly unusual as it's first person rather than third as is more normal with the Jack Reacher books.

Tags: books, words Written 27/02/14

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