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Re: USAGE: "each other" vs. "each ... the other"

From:Tommie L Powell <tommiepowell@...>
Date:Thursday, December 11, 2003, 21:24
Adam Walker wrote:
> And *I* would interpret "each man walked behind the > other" to simply mean that there is along file of men > each following the one in front of him.
If I am told to walk behind an object that has no obvious front, I will walk around it to its far side. So the default meaning of "to walk behind X" is "to walk to X's far side." If the object has an obvious front, ambiguity can arise. If its front faces me, the default meaning clearly applies, since its own rear is also its far side from my perspective. If its rear faces me, I'd still choose the default meaning, since it would make no sense for me to be told to walk behind it (when I'm already behind it from its perspective) unless the speaker meant for me to walk to its far side. So the ambiguity only arises if the object is facing left or right from my perspective. Then I don't know what to do. If I am told to walk behind a man who isn't moving, the same holds true: I'll walk to his far side if his front or rear faces me, but I won't know what to do if he is facing left or right from my perspective. If a man is walking and I'm told to walk behind him, there is no ambiguity: Since he isn't stationary, I can't possibly walk *to* his far side or walk *to* his rear, so I'm clearly being told to follow him. Even if he's walking backwards, I would understand that I'm supposed to follow him. So, if I'm told that two men walk behind each other, I understand that they are *following* each other. To me, that conjures up an image of them circling one another.