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I saw the phrase, ‘Mr. Klein’s dizzying journey, in under a year from – to –’ in the following sentence of the New York Times’ (July 23) article titled ‘Ex-Schools Chief Emerges as Unlikely Murdoch Ally.’

Mr. Klein’s dizzying journey, in under a year, from one of the nation’s foremost education reformers to the corporate consigliere for a media titan whose politics are far to the right of his own, has surprised and unsettled many friends and colleagues, who fear that he will be unable to extricate himself from a scandal that shows no sign of abating.

I’m puzzled if the combination of ‘in’ and ‘under’ in ‘the journey in and under a year’ isn't redundant. Is ‘in and under’ an idiom? Can’t we say simply ‘within a year’? What is the specific nuance of ‘in and under a year’?

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@Yoichi-san, I noticed you ask in your last paragraph about "the journey in and under a year". I have added a link to the article, where I believe the quote is "journey, in under a year" as you quote it initially. "In and under" would probably sound strange; it is not a common idiom, and the only way I can think to use it is that I might write about a "journey in (and under!) a year" if I wanted to emphasize the accomplishment of making the journey in less than a year, even more than the phrase "in under a year" already does. –  aedia λ Jul 25 '11 at 0:12
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2 Answers

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@Colin describes the grammar of the sentence very well. Additionally, the nuance of "in under a year" as compared with "within a year" is that the former emphasizes that the journey took less time than might be expected.

For instance, if I say that I journeyed from California to Maine within a year, that's not remarkable; it takes four hours by plane or four days by car. That should be easy to accomplish in any given year.

However, if I say that I walked from California to Maine in under a year, that is quite a remarkable thing—it should take much more time than one year to accomplish such a feat, but I had done it much faster.

So the implication in this sentence is not just that the transformation from reformer to consigliere is unexpected, but that such a change occurring in less than a year's time is really remarkable.

(NB: I don't actually know how long it would take to walk across the US, but I imagine it would take a long time.)

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It's not redundant. "In under a year" means "in less than a year", or "during a period less than a year".

"In" introduces the prepositional phrase. "Under" is here not really a preposition, but a quantifier.

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/@Kit.Thank you for your reminding me that ‘under’ means ‘less than.’ I didn’t come to think of it at all. I prematurely took ‘in’ and ‘under’ as prepositions placed in tandem. Though it’s my premitive mistake and sounds a lame excuse, I wouldn’t have strayed if the writer could have written ‘a dizzying journey in less than a year.’ –  Yoichi Oishi Jul 24 '11 at 23:45
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