Pretty disappointed today in my editing brethren after the Associated Press’ bombshell that it will no longer make the distinction between more than and over.
If Facebook and Twitter are any indication, the AP ruined many lives yesterday and copy editors nationwide are in full revolt. The language world is in chaos.
But here’s the thing: Over means more than. It always has. Look:
o•ver (ō´vər) prep. [[ME ouer < OE ofer, akin to Ger über, ober < IE *uper (orig. a compar. of *upo, up) > L super, Gr hyper]]: More than, or above, in degree, amount, number, etc. [a moderate increase over his current salary, a gift costing over five dollars]
“In one of its uses, the prepositional over is interchangeable with more than <over 600 people were there>—and this has been so for more than 600 years. The charge that over is inferior to more than is a baseless crotchet.” — Garner’s Modern American Usage
It seems to me that editors and others who are supposed to enjoy language should be impressed by over‘s versatility and appreciate that it can do so much (I’m over it; hand it over; he was over the line; discussed over drinks; ad infinitum). I also wonder where all of our copy editors ever got the idea that words can do only one thing. How limiting.
The sooner we can stop blindly following arbitrary and meaningless rules and editing like robots, the sooner we can get back to the business of clarity and common sense. For the record, I don’t think much of the distinctions between over and during; like and such as; or since and because, either.
I know you’re surprised that I would ever be angry about anything, but whatever. She wrote something awesome, so I’m sharing it even though I resent her.
Let’s say that you feel, despite the evidence I may put in front of you, that “decimate” should not be used to refer to utterly destroying something. That’s fine, assuming you’ve gone through Steps 1-5 above. But before you move in to correct the next guy who uses “decimate” to mean “to utterly destroy,” consider: is this the hill you want to die on? Do you want your legacy in life to be “That One Person Who Bitched Endlessly About ‘Decimate’”? Are you happy with a life that will be beset by smart-asses like me asking why, if you are so interested in so-called etymological purity, you aren’t also tackling “nice” and “frankfurter” and holy hell half the month names of the Gregorian calendar?
I’ve encountered my share of know-it-alls and fussbudgets in the editing (and writing) world, many of whom probably really believe they are doing God’s work and making the world a better place by pointing out every single misspelling, misplaced comma, or unconventional usage.
I wrote about the topic earlier this year when people corrected President Obama’s grammar on Reddit, but this blogger’s series of posts are far more graceful and informative. If you work with words, either writing or editing, or are interested in language at all, her posts should be required reading.
I have taken (and given) many, many editing tests in my life, and one thing has become very clear to me: I will never be able to spell poinsettia.
It looks wrong to me no matter how I spell it. First, it seems like it ought to have another T in there somewhere. Pointsettia? Then I realize that, no, that’s absurd. Oh, wait, I know: The -ia at the end is all wrong. Needs to just be an -a because that’s how it’s pronounced. I think. Look, I’m not a florist.
Poinsetta. No, still looks wrong.
Luckily, most programs have dynamic spellcheck by now, and lucky, too, that there is just not that much content that contains this cursed plant.
In the past week or so, I’ve watched two episodes of “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.”
It makes me ashamed a little, but it’s not like I planned to watch it. OK, that’s not entirely true. The other night, someone I know happened to be on a segment of the show, so I watched it on purpose.
But tonight, it was just on. I guess I could have changed the channel, but Monday night, apparently, is Headlines night, which comes with a special schadenfreude for me.
I’m going to go ahead and just man up to watching Jay Leno sometimes. Judge if you must. I can take it.
Distributed Proofreaders is a site to “help ease the conversion of public domain books into e-books” in the mission of “preserving the literary history of the world in a freely available form for everyone to use.”
DP has adapted a font for proofreading that is supposed to be easier for readers to distinguish similar characters (lowercase Ls and ones, for example) and often-overlooked errors (e.g., rn looks like m).
Guess it makes sense that there’s an optimum proofreading font. I always just used a nice, fat serif font when I had a choice. Often, I didn’t have any say in the matter and had to do the best I could with 9-point Interstate Light Condensed.
Still, I’m not sure this proofreading font, DPCustomMono2, does much for me — it actually makes my eyes hurt a little. But maybe I’m just not used to it.