Thursday, February 21, 2008

Wide and Wild!

I hate to be a grammar freak, but there is a phrase that bothers my ears: "vary wildly". To me it should always be "vary widely". For example, in the NYTimes this morning:
Waiting lists for treatment vary wildly from place to place.
In the Globe&Mail a few days ago, they hit the double play. The headline:
Out of pocket costs vary widely by province for seniors
The first sentence:
...out-of-pocket costs paid by seniors for prescription drugs vary wildly between provinces, new research shows
I can't find a reference that says which is correct, so let's defer to Google's vote. "vary wildly" only gets 192,000 hits while "vary widely" gets a whopping 2,690,000. Correct your English accordingly!

1 comment:

  1. It seems to me that "vary wildly" implies a rapid fluctuation over time, and "vary widely" implies a wide distribution of attributes without reference to time. So it seems to me that each phrase can be correct in its appropriate context -- wild implying rate of variance and wide implying degree of variance. (Also, since it's easier to pronounce "widely" than "wildly", it's not surprising that "widely" is used about ten times more often than "wildly". A factor of ten is not so significant.)