Teaching Without Tazers: "More Than" vs. "Over"
Don't you hate bloggers who refer to their blogs all the time? It's really just the semi-grown-up, online version of what teenagers do. I am constantly trying to beat it out of my students--you know, this urge to continually write about their writing. I call it writing self-consciously, and I ban it in my classroom. Force of [bad] habit makes teenagers spend a lot of time writing things like this:
In this essay I am going to tell you....
As you can see from what I wrote in the previous paragraphs....
In conclusion, I think I used good evidence to show....
Dentists, last I heard, still hold the dubious honor of being the profession with the highest suicide rate; I contend that English teachers who actually read and grade student essays must be catching up. I can't see how we're not at least giving dentists a good run for that record.
The reason I bring this up is that I am about to do something that I find incomprehensibly annoying when I see it on other blogs. I am going to blog about my blog. But only for a moment, and only as a starting point for a brief yet important lesson on one of my Wild Peeves. Stick with me here; this will be pretty painless (unlike your last visit to Dr. Yankatooth). So here we go with the annoying self-conscious self-promotion:
Earlier today the Happy Dog blog hit the 1,000 page views mark!
So what? Well, besides the fact that I'm pretty stoked to get this kind of traffic after only 39 days, it also gives me an opportunity to school you in one teeny, tiny misusage that gets under my skin.
Imagine I tell you that I reached 1,000 page views.
If you liked me, you would probably say something like, “Over 1,000 page views? That's awesome.”
And if I liked you, I would probably reply something like, “Thanks. Yeah, I'm pretty stoked.”
And if I didn't like you, I would have to bite my tongue to keep from saying, “No, I don't have OVER 1,000 page views. I have MORE THAN 1,000 page views.”
It's a small, small thing, I know. And perhaps I am a small, small person for even caring about this. And I am not even going to look up what the current stance is on this by famous or wanna-be-famous grammarians. Because I don't CARE what they say. Lots of things become proper usage through incessant misusage, and I am digging in my heels against it. Therefore, on the whole OVER vs. MORE THAN issue, let me break it down for you.
In what I consider to be its purest usage, OVER should function primarily as a preposition in a prepositional phrase that shows the relationship between two things.
The horseshoe hung over the door.
(shows current relationship of horseshoe to door)
She spread the chocolate frosting over the cake.
(shows current relationship of frosting to cake)
Your mother is coming to visit over my dead body.
(shows future relationship of marriage)
Yes, you can use OVER as an adverb instead of a preposition, as in,
The smell of your cologne makes me want to keel over.
But even then, OVER is being used basically to show physical positioning and direction. Which way will I keel? Over.
When we are talking numbers, quantities, amounts, monies, I much prefer MORE THAN. That's what MORE is for: to say that there exists a greater number, quantity or amount of something. The following sentences include both OVER and MORE THAN and may be illustrative in showing how and why each serves a specific purpose:
* When Sue discovered Brian had more than one girlfriend, she beat him over the head with a frying pan.
* The thief jumped over the wall and was greeted by more than one pit bull.
* There are more than a few ways to skin a cat, but only one way to serve it: over rice.
Is all this an almost gross oversimplification? Yes, of course it is. But just like your middle school English teacher gave you only the bare bones of grammar until you shook off your teenage angst and acne, I, too, am sensitive to the demands on your time and attention. Suffice it to say that your formal writing and speaking will benefit from using MORE THAN when referring to quantities rather than using OVER, which is informal, conversational, and frankly, a bit lazy when used in those same situations.
Oh, and about the cat thing...I was just kidding, so save your hate mail. It's better over couscous.