Both is a word in the English language
(brought over from an Old Norse root, which yields begging
as well) which indicates that some state of being applies to each one of a set
of precisely two occupants. Russia
are both transcontinental. Australia
both start with the letter 'A' and are both home to penguins. Both penguins
and the letter 'A' can be found in Africa, as well. But occasionally one will see a lapse
wherein the word, both, is used to denote a circumstance shared by three or more members of the set. As in, both Australia, Antarctica, and Africa contain the letter 'A.' Russia, Turkey, and Egypt are both transcontinental. No, this is wrong, three things do not 'both' contain anything, because the 'both' went out the window when the third thing trundled into the sentence, knocking over neatly arranged bits of punctuation and interrupting clauses which were trying to engage in polite and quiet conversation
Now (as one fellow noder notes dutifully), there's an apparent exception to this whole conundrum. 'Apparent,' because really it's not an exception at all, it's the same situation with a difference in appearance alone. What if you're referring to two sets
of things? For example, Both the Smiths and the Appletons enjoy Mozart
. That is, both the set of (Mr. and Mrs. Smith
) and (Mr. and Mrs. Appleton) enjoy Mozart. One could inartfully, but not grammatically incorrectly, state that both Mr. and Mrs. Smith and Mr. and Mrs. Appleton enjoy Mozart. And if you're inclined to go by first names alone, you could as accurately state that both John and Jane and Jim and Judy enjoy Mozart, and this wouldn't break the rules since the 'both' to which you are referring would be both sets of persons. This can come across as a threesome
if you have one set of two people and one set of a single person. As one documentary
noted, both the Duke and Duchess of York
and the Prince of Wales
enjoy wearing hats. Or suppose you've got some gay couples. Both John and Jim and Joe and Jay enjoy Christmas caroling.
And again if you have a pair of things to which a situation applies, as well as other things to which this situation likewise applies. For example, imagine you've got two gay penguins who live together in Australia (it being legal in Australia for gay penguins to cohabitate). It would be correct to state that both penguins live in Australia, because they do. And it would be equally correct if other things were in the set -- both penguins and the letter 'A' can be found in Australia. Both penguins, kangaroos, and koalas
can be found in Australia (that is, kangaroos and koalas can be found in Australia, as well as both penguin Joe Smith and penguin Jay Appleton, both of whom enjoy both Mozart and Christmas caroling).
And finally, were one to note that both booth
, and berth
begin with 'b
' and end with 'th,' that would not be a problem of grammar, but of proper punctuation
. Clearly the intended sentence is: both, booth, bath, and berth begin with 'b
' and end with 'th.' And indeed, all of them do.
But don't use 'both' for an actual set of three things. Humans are capable of a great deal of forgiveness
, so it would be going to far to call this extra-occupant intrusion
an unforgivable error
-- but though I'm not a truther
or a birther
, I guess you could call me a bother
. It's just disconcerting enough that, well, let's both you and I avoid doing it. Blessings!!
For THE IRON NODER CHALLENGE 5: THE FERROUS FRONTIER