Again and again, all over the time

In class yesterday, I said, about some usage, that you could  find it “all over the time”. For me, this was an inadvertent blend, of “all over the place” and “all the time”, both conveying frequent occurrence; it was not what I intended to say, and I caught it on the spot. Then I checked my error files, and found that I had made the very same inadvertent error in a different class  in 2007. Well, that happens; some errors are more likely than others and will occur again and again.

A Google search pulls up more (relevant) examples of “all over the time”, for instance these:

BARKER: We have had our billboards and our signs up all year-round in many states, all over the time. (link)

This is a classic deceptive practice that is used all over the country, all over the time. (link)

There are lots of irrelevant examples, and many with “all over the time” understood as ‘all during the time’, but there are also some that look like genuine combinations of time and place meanings. The question is whether all of these are inadvertent errors (like mine), or whether some of them came out as intended. That is, it’s possible that  for some people all over the time is now an idiom on its own (unmoored from its origins  as a blend), which people simply pick up from other people.

A somewhat different example: my Fay/Cutler malapropism (errors in word retrieval, based on phonology) files include the expression “spread like wildflower” (for “spread like wildfire”), which I’ve uttered in error several times in error (correcting myself each time).

“Spread like wildflower(s)” has made it into the Eggcorn Database (here), where it’s noted that people “often comment on the poetic character of the ‘wildflower(s)’ versions”. In any case, some of the examples are not inadvertent errors, but were intended to be as they are; by whatever route, some people have picked up the “wildflower(s)” version, believe it to be an ordinary expression of English, and are willing to explain that it makes good sense, because wildflowers spread fast.

Note the larger lesson here: the same expression can have different statuses for different speakers on different occasions.

11 Responses to “Again and again, all over the time”

  1. John Lawler Says:

    The next step is obviously “spread like wild flour”.

  2. arnoldzwicky Says:

    To John Lawler: “spread like wild flies” is apparently attested.

  3. irrationalpoint Says:

    Is this like “lightyears before”? Or is that something else?


  4. arnoldzwicky Says:

    To irrationalpoint: I have to admit that I don’t understand your reference here, so I can’t comment intelligently on your questions.

  5. irrationalpoint Says:

    As in “I finished the race lightyears before my opponent.” In physics, lightyears are a measure of distance, not time.


  6. Stan Says:

    An error it might technically be, but it makes sense on its own terms. People habitually spatialize time, “seeing” it as (mainly) linear and running from left to right so that we can select arbitrary “points in time”, as though it were an elongated map.

    The tendency or ability to spatialize time has obvious organisational benefits. Julian Jaynes considered it an essential property of consciousness, and said that it could be dated “with at least a modicum of conviction at about 1300 B.C.”

    I’m surprised the “error” is not more common!

  7. empty Says:

    “Year” is a unit of time, so it is easy for the casual listener, hearing the word, to think that “light-year” is also a unit of time — maybe a very long one. I don’t see it as a case of confusing space with time, but rather of not having learned what a word means.

    Using space words to speak figuratively about time is something else. Yes, we say “point in time”. The phrase “a short space of time” is pretty standard. The word “interval” originally meant something spatial, but for centuries has also applied to time. I don’t know whether “long” was originally a space word or a time word, but it has had both of those senses for ages.

  8. ShadowFox Says:

    Just as a point of reference, this is not a newly recorded blend, although past record also suggests use is speech.

    [(amz) Where did I claim that the blend had never before been reported? I merely observed that I had been subject to the error, and that other instances could be googled up.

    Are you seriously suggesting that people should report usages, errors, etc. only if they have never been reported before?]
    29 Nov. 1898
    Minutes of Evidence Taken before HM’s Commissioners Appointed to Inquire into the Subject of Water Supply
    “18,747. When did you test them in 1892. They varied, I know. — They varied all over the time. It began in March and ended in March of the next year.”
    Biedermanns zentralblatt für Agrikulturchemie und rationellen Landwir tschaftsbetrieb: Tierernährung, Volume 9
    “But the calves were fed and nursed so well, that they remained sound all over the time; especially it was cared for indigestions to be avoided.”

    The former is without doubt, the latter has an accurate quote but unverified citation.

    Here’s another:
    The Child’s Construction of Politics, Raewyn Connell
    “Everybody’d be scared that someone was going to drop the bomb on them, atomic bomb or something, and blow the place right off the map, and everybody’d be panic-stricken all over the time, and everybody mostly behave, …”

    Given the nature of the publication, I presume this is also a transcript of a child’s speech (where “child” could be as old as 17).

    The meaning is the same in these three cases as the one Arnold suggests, except possibly in the 1937 case, where the expression may be taken in a more technical meaning “continuously distributed over a specified period of time”. Compare,
    IEEE transactions on communications
    “There are two separate spectra, the bottom one resembles the spectra of the speech signal all over the time, except some variations at some letters, …”

    The same use here:
    IEEE International Radar Conference (Quinquennial)
    “One of these assumes a straight-line unaccelerated target plant while the other assumes worst case target maneuvers all over the time.”

    This is an extreme case of another cluster of hits that look like “all over the time map/range/scope/span/spectrum/track/table/period/series” and of which there are dozens of hits.

    Another interesting case is here.

  9. arnoldzwicky Says:

    To irrationalpoint and empty, on lightyears ‘a huge number of years; a great deal’: lightyear did indeed start out as a technical term of astronomy, for a measure of distance, and it continues to be so used in scientific contexts. But the expression was metaphorized in ordinary language some time ago: OED2 (1989) has the technical term from 1888 on, the “figurative use” from 1971 (“light years from FPA policy”) and 1973 (“light-years removed from a creative artist”).

    Now, people sometimes maintain that if an expression has a technical use, then that’s its true, its only acceptable, use; according to these people, scientists and other technical professionals get to dictate the (“correct”) meanings of words. But they have no right to do this, outside of the relevant technical contexts; ordinary language is not theirs to legislate.

    Hundreds, probably thousands, of technical terms have been metaphorized in ordinary language, without confusion (as in OED2’s figurative examples above).

  10. arnoldzwicky Says:

    To Stan on the spatializing of time: well, yes, space is used to configure our understanding of time, and this shows up in the language we use about time (and sometimes the reverse, as in “We’re about two hours from Phoenix”). The expression “all over the time” does combine a time expression and a place expression, but I don’t see how it configures anything in terms of something else.

  11. empty Says:

    outside of the relevant technical contexts; ordinary language is not theirs to legislate

    I agree in principle, and I accept chastiement. Certainly it’s not an error to use the word “force” or “limit” in a way that conflicts with its sense in physics or mathematics.

    I suppose it’s a little harder for me to live by that principle in the case of a word like “light-year”, which originated as a technical coinage.

    I don’t see the issue as resistance to figurative use of technical terms. The statement “their positions are still light-years apart” would bother me no more than “their positions are miles apart” or “I have a ton of work to do”. The cited “light-years removed from a creative artist” seems to be of this kind.

    Where a peeve pops up for me is “that was light-years ago” — it may be figurative here, but it suggests a belief that the word’s primary meaning is about time rather than space.

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