On his Baltimore Sun blog, John McIntyre (mild-mannered copy editor) has been posting repeatedly on the Associated Press’s decision to (finally) cease objecting to over used for ‘more than’. The latest chapter:

Write about language, as about climate change or evolution, and what do you get? A strident chorus of denial. I wonder why.

Last week Tom Chivers wrote about English grammar at The Telegraph, patiently explaining why a good deal of what has been taught about grammar is unsound and what linguists, Geoffrey Pullum in particular, have discovered in examining how we speak and write.

Writing later at Language Log, Professor Pullum evaluated the comments thus: “Discussion seemed to be dominated by an army of nutballs who often hadn’t read the article. They seemed to want (i) a platform from which to assert some pre-formed opinion about grammar, or (ii) a chance to insult someone who had been the subject of an article, or (iii) an opportunity to publicly beat up another commenter.”

As is so often the case, the liberating openness of Internet discussion turns out to resemble an argument about sports terms among people who have had too much to drink as last call nears.

I’ve been musing about what lies beneath all the fury.

Perhaps the simplest explanation is the phenomenon labeled mumpsimus. People are disposed to stick with what they have come to think of as stable knowledge, and the more it is explained to them that they are mistaken, the more they cling to error.

My eye was caught by mumpsimus.

From Wikipedia:

A mumpsimus is an action by a person, or the person themselves, who adheres to a routine, idea, custom, set of beliefs, or a certain use of language that has been shown to be unreasonable or incorrect. For example, a person may continue to say all intents and purposes as all intensive purposes, even after being corrected.

… The term originates from a story about a priest who misread sumpsimus as mumpsimus. Informed of his mistake, he replied he had said mumpsimus for a number of years and was not about to change: “I’ve got so used to using the word mumpsimus that I’ll just go on saying it that way.” The Oxford English Dictionary credits the English diplomat Richard Pace (1482–1536) with introducing the word, but it may have first been used by Desiderius Erasmus (1466–1536) in a letter he wrote in August 1516.[7] Pace acknowledged that he had taken the anecdote from Erasmus in a letter that he wrote to Erasmus in 1517. Another source attributes the tale to King Henry VII of England (1457–1509), which would make it even older.

The Wikipedia first example is of a persistent eggcorn.

In any case, an entertaining word.

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