A correspondent asks for my views about such sentences as There will be an intermission between each act. Is it acceptable?
Well, not according to Fowler, for example, who adopted a very strict line about the usage of between: 'it must not be followed by a single expression in which a distributive such as each or every is supposed to represent a plural'. Similarly, between was not supposed to be used for more than two entities (among being recommended instead).
All this despite the fact that, from the very earliest recorded uses of between, we find it used in situations where more than two entities are involved. As the OED puts it, in a useful note (between V.19):
It is still the only word available to express the relation of a thing to many surrounding things severally and individually, among expressing a relation to them collectively and vaguely: we should not say ‘the space lying among the three points,’ or ‘a treaty among three powers,’ or ‘the choice lies among the three candidates in the select list,’ or ‘to insert a needle among the closed petals of a flower.’
However, over the past 250 years or so, prescriptive grammarians have privileged the etymology of the word (tween - 'two'), though often failing to live up to their own prescriptions. Dr Johnson was especially influential, when he wrote in his Dictionary:
Between is properly used of two, and among of more ...
However, he adds:
... but perhaps this accuracy is not always preserved.
And indeed it isn't. Boswell records Johnson himself as saying:
I ... hope, that, between publick business, improving studies, and domestick pleasures, neither melancholy nor caprice will find any place for entrance.
Between each has a similar history. Prescriptive grammarians would insist on my correspondent's sentence being rewritten as something like There will be an intermission after each act - ignoring the problem that there is no intermission after the last act. Fowler would have suggested a change to ...between each act and the rest, which is momentarily confusing. There really is no easy alternative - which is presumably why the between each usage is frequently found in literature over the centuries. Here's an early example from The Passionate Pilgrim, a text from Shakespeare's time:
Between each kiss her oaths of true love swearing...
Gowers (in his Plain Words) called the fuss over between each 'pedantry', and advises us to 'ignore' those who insist on restricting between to its etymological meaning. I agree.