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You Don't Say

News You Don't Say

Easing the crotchet shortage

Now that the editors of the Associated Press Stylebook have abandoned the over/more than distinction beloved of American newspapers (and no one else), there is a very real danger that someone may heed them and abandon the baseless crotchet.  

But wait: There's more where that came from.

Anyone who finds editing arid and meaningless without the enforcement of arbitrary and meaningless distinctions can discover a rich lode in William Cullen Bryant's Index expurgatorius, the source of the original over/more than shibboleth. 

Here are some, taken from the list as reprinted in Theodore Bernstein's Miss Thistlebottom's Hobgoblins. You should feel free to forbid them to any writer or editor under your power, since they have exactly the same authority as the over/more than distinction. 

bogus

claimed (for asserted)

collided*

couple (for two)

donate

en route

House (for House of Representatives)

jeopardize

located

pants (for pantaloons)

repudiate (for reject or disown)

taboo

talented

As with over/more than, Bryant, editor of the New York Evening Post from 1829 to 1878 and author of the once-admired "Thanatopsis," did not trouble to cite any authority or offer any rationale for his prohibitions. But the bare list should not be much of an obstacle to those of you who were able to generate such fanciful over/more than distinctions. 

Have at them. 

 

Addendum: Grammar Girl points out that the estimable Jan Freeman discovered that Bryant was not the originator of the over/more than superstition, but rather Daniel Burgess in Five Hundred Mistakes of Daily Occurrence in Speaking, Writing, and Pronouncing the English Language (1856). 

 

 

*The AP Stylebook remains under the mistaken impression that two objects must be in motion before a collision can occur, that a moving object cannot collide with a stationary one. I can tell you from personal experience that this is not so. 

 


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