between inclusive

Benjamin Barrett gogaku at IX.NETCOM.COM
Tue Jun 4 09:13:18 UTC 2013

The OED says about "between": Of the relation of a number, quantity, degree, or quality to two others above and below it, or differing from it in opposite ways; Intermediate to.

One of the cites is:

Between five and six miles from the city.

If I emphasize the words "between," "five" and "six" just right, I think I can make it not include five or six, but generally speaking, I don't think that's the case.

Wiktionary has the same issue:

In the position or interval that separates (two things), or intermediate in quantity or degree.

This works fine for the following sample sentence:
1. John stood between Amy and Mary.

but less well for 2 and very poorly for 3:
2. Let's meet between two and three.
3. I want to buy one that costs somewhere between forty and fifty dollars.

My concern is not merely petty pedantry: I just got called on this very issue by my Japanese client who thought my use of "between" was inappropriate as a translation of Japanese copy which is inclusive. I explained that while the OED agrees with her, I had to nevertheless disagree.

Benjamin Barrett
Seattle, WA

The American Dialect Society -

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