Grammaticians needed

My five year old has been wearing out a new song from the Disney DVD “High School Musical,” and I’ve found myself singing along in the car. But when I get to the line:

    You know the world can see us in a way that's different than who we are

, I can’t seem to break the habit of saying “different from.” I finally broke down and checked out the grammatical nuances of this phrase in Google, and came across Cecil’s piece “Is ‘different than’ bad grammar?” at the straightdope website, which is very well written.

If I have it right, Cecil seems to be saying that “different than” is OK in this case, since “who we are” is a dependent clause. But when I try to expand the sentence, I get:

You know the world can see us in a way that’s different than the way they
would if they could see who we are

, and that sounds pretty klugey to me. If there are any grammaticians reading this, please set me straight. Is the word “who” improperly used in this sentence?

I realize this is just Disney, but inquiring minds want to know.


It was “different than” that was supposed to be incorrect, with “different from” the correct version.

In the example you gave, “You know the world can see us in a way that’s different than who we are,” you could simply change “than” to “from,” since the phrase “who we are” behaves as a noun. We are different from that; that = who we are.

What would get you into trouble is something like, “You’re different than I thought.” You certainly can’t replace “than” from “from” in that sentence. You could simply go for “than,” which at this point is fairly idiomatic, certainly for informal speech. If you insisted on “from,” you could simply say “You’re different from what I thought” or “You’re different from how I thought you’d be.”

It’s kludgey because “the world” obviously cannot be described as “they.” the correct sentence would be:

You know the world can see us in a way that’s different than the way it would if it could see who we are.

It’s wordy, but passable. However, it’s also a bit of a stretch, implying all sorts of missing words in a way that fixes other problems with the sentence’s structure. Would you guys agree that if you can replace “different” with “better” while keeping “than”, then the sentence checks out? If so, then “the world may see us in a way better than who we are” reveals pointedly the fact that “see us in a way” is not quite the same as “see us to be” and does not quite agree with “who we are.” Us being is not parallel to the world seeing. Or looked in a different way, an adverb cannot be restated as a noun.

Better to say “the world may see us to be different than who we are” or “the world may see us as different than who we are.”

Alternately, you can say “the world may see us in a way that’s different than the way we ought be seen.”

‘From’ can probably replace ‘than’ in all those cases, and might even be more appropriate. However, the disagreement between “way” and “we are” stays valid.

I also like how those latter sentences bring up the point that disney is rather pushing its agenda with its wording. The world is apparently doing the seeing subjectively (hence there exist different ways), while we simply are. Tsk, tsk, disney.
To inject a bit of philosophy into this: all of us are ignorant and innocent, even the rude annoying assholes. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t treat them as rude assholes for the sake of society at large. Don’t bitch at the system for being unfair, rather respect the system for performing a profound task. It just so happens that inherently unfair things such as establishing natural social superiority and subordinance (even on criteria as meaningless as physical appearance) is the reason that us apes were able to get to where we are. And no, we cannot advance beyond such things at least until communicational and beurocratic technology allows us to fundamentally and effectively obviate those mechanisms. Sure as hell it can’t do so now.

So all you misunderstood, fat, ugly, naively insolent misfits: just think of yourself as part of a larger picture. A picture of a man who requires soles. :stuck_out_tongue:
Also, I don’t like how disney pushes the message that we should simply ignore what the world is saying about us. Now we certainly cannot take it at face value, because people themselves do not understand why they feel certain things against others (especially when their judgements are skewed by arational observations of mannerisms and apperance). However, if you keep saying that it’s the world that’s crazy, you’ll never exactly get anywhere either. Rather, you should work on the things you can change to counteract those you cannot. Either that, or go off and live in the mountains by yourself.

again, i don’t think “you are” agrees with “how i thought”

Not necessarily. In normal British usage, collective nouns take the plural – “The government are raising taxes,” etc.

No; the correct sentence would be: You know the world can see us in a way that’s different [from] the way it would if it could see who we are.

The world can indeed be “they” used as a collective noun. More importantly, why let your kid watch Disney crap?