Trevor Butterworth, "Top Science Journal Rebukes Harvard's Top Nutritionist", Forbes 5/27/2013:
In an extraordinary editorial and feature article, Nature, one of the world’s pre-eminent scientific journals, has effectively admonished the chair of the Harvard School of Public Health’s nutrition department, Walter Willett, for promoting over-simplification of scientific results in the name of public health and engaging in unseemly behavior towards those who venture conclusions that differ to his.
Barry R. asks:
"… that differ to his?" Is this a common usage? Or is it as wrong as it sounds to me?
Stan Carey has a long and insightful discussion of a related question, preposition-choice with different ("Different from, different than, different to", Sentence First, 4/20/2011):
If you see nothing immediately wrong with the phrases different from, different to, and different than, you might be surprised by all the ink spilt, keys poked and eyebrows furrowed over their respective permissibilities. Not only is different than often mistakenly called a mistake, it has been described as flagrant, eyebrow-raising, revolting, abominable, and ridiculous. More on that later. First, an introduction to the use and distribution of the expressions.
Different from is by far the most widely used and accepted form, different to is common in British English, and different than is spoken regularly in different varieties of English, including US English and BrE. All have their uses. The predominance of different from, particularly in written English, is shown by these figures from the Collins Cobuild Bank of English, which I found at alt.usage.english:
Here are the raw string-frequencies in the BNC and COCA corpus:
The string frequencies are only an approximation — many of the 405 instances of "different to" in COCA, for example, are things like
And I'm wondering whether it feels different to you.
Well, we all bring something different to the table.
So, he actually said something different to his wife than he did in his press conference.
She had something different to live for.
It turns us on when you wear something different to bed.
Still, this proxy measure confirms that "different to" is more common in British English. What about prepositions in the complement of the verb differ?
Again, from is the most common; and than is genuinely shunned, even without any fussing from peevers.
And in this case, only one of the 11 COCA examples is genuine — and that one is in the transcript of an interview with a British officer:
Quite clearly, the requirements for peacekeeping differ to those of becoming a rapid reaction force.
The others are all things like
Financial planners differ to some extent about how such cash should be used.
How does the approach of the journalist and the academic differ to this sort of classified information?
The systemic azoles all differ to some degree in drug-drug interactions, adverse reactions, and clinical application.
Similarly, only one the 8 "differ to" examples in the BNC is genuine:
When acid secretion was expressed corrected for lean body mass and fat free body weight these findings did not differ to those using acid output expressed as mmol/h.
All the rest involve things like "… differ to the extent that…", "… differ to a greater or less extent from each other…", "… differ to some extent over the precise reasons…" There are 5 more examples of differed|differs|differing to, of which two are genuine to-complements:
If their opinion differs to mine, I believe that they know best.
Peter Harris on how the British approach of designing and buying a home differs to our European neighbours.
But if we weigh these 3 instances of [differ] to against the 1,099 (almost all genuine) examples of [differ] from, we see that BNC writers and speakers are choosing [differ] to only a few tenths of a percent of the time.
Nevertheless, looking at the current Google News index turns up dozens of relevant examples, all from British or ex-British Empire sources. For example:
Woodford’s separate £10.3bn Income portfolio, for instance, is not at risk of sector ejection because its own year-end date of 31 March differs to that of the High Income fund. [Investment Week, a .uk site]
Additional details on Tekken Revolution, including the content featured in the base game, information on micro-transactions, and how the game differs to previous Tekken titles have yet to be revealed. [Videogamer, by a writer based in London]
But it is more precise to talk about a plurality of racisms than a single phenomenon; racism in Australia certainly differs to racism in say France, which differs again to racism in Norway, and so on. [The Guardian]
How does it compare and differ to your past albums? [Lancashire Telegraph]
Animals Australia executive director Glenys Oogjes said although her group's views differed to those of to rural lobby groups on live export, it was “profoundly disappointing to see this attack on Coles for supporting an unrelated campaign that encourages consumers to support higher welfare methods of production”. [The Land (Australia)]
How will this tour differ to all your other tours? [FemaleFirst.co.uk]
None of the leaders, however, stood up to give an opinion that differed to Mbela's nor move to speak and tone down the inciting message. [The Standard (Kenya)]
Claiming that “no one ever left their desktop in the back of a taxi cab”, Morris’ opinions differ to that of Apple CEO Tim Cook, who believes we are now living in a “post-PC era.” [Technday (New Zealand)]
Without doing a quantitative comparison, it seems to me that there are more of these Out There than we would expect if the true rate of [differ] to usage among British (in the broad sense) writers were only a few tenths of a percent. Perhaps things have changed since the early 1990s, when the BNC was collected, or perhaps journalists are special in this respect. It's relevant that the author of the Forbes article, Trevor Butterworth, is "an Irish journalist and writer who has lived in the United States since 1993 and presently resides in Brooklyn".
In any case, the web-search evidence seems to confirm that [differ] to is essentially never used by Yanks. The only Google News example that I found from an American source is in a transcript quoting my old friend George Doddington, where it's a mis-transcription of "defer to". And if British (ex-) Empire usage is largely limited to journalists, that would help explain Barry R.'s reaction.