Gregory Favre

Viewpoints: AP has gone ‘over’ the top

Published: Saturday, Apr. 12, 2014 - 12:00 am

Please say it isn’t so, Associated Press.

Please say it was just an April Fool’s joke, that the usually wise, enlightened and caring folks in New York who prepare the book that serves as the bible for writing style really weren’t serious.

Please say they were just joshing when they declared from now on “over” is perfectly acceptable in place of “more than” when crafting a sentence. You had your laughs, now let’s get serious.

“Over” is a wonderful and much sought-after prefix, especially when you want to express a thought or an idea to an excessive degree. But that doesn’t give a green light for anyone to get overzealous about its use and cause some old-timers to become overwrought.

The voices of the nuns, who taught us from the first to third grades, and the brothers, who picked us up from the fourth grade on, ring as loudly in our ears today as they did in those yesterdays: “You go over the bridge to get to your grandmother’s house.” And then they would add, “You pay more than 50 cents in toll to get across the bridge.”

Even preteens could understand the logic of their explanations. If you couldn’t, there was always the instrument of encouragement, the dreaded foot-long ruler, or in some cases, the yard-long ruler. Perhaps we ought to send one of each to the AP headquarters.

But, of course, that was long before we started communicating with letters instead of words on mobile devices; long before lazy language was deemed OK; long before the love for and the appreciation of the power of words started disappearing in too many classrooms.

Now, thanks to our friends at AP, one more blow has been delivered to the softening belly of written and verbal communication. Is this the kind of change that news organizations, print, broadcast and online, pay millions for each year? If so, where is the rebate?

Wasn’t it bad enough when a cigarette commercial, years ago, allowed and persuaded people to substitute “like” for “as” or “such as” with impunity? And even made it fine for so many teenagers everywhere to spice their vocabulary with “like” every three or four words they utter.

What’s next?

Will we give our blessing to sportswriters who constantly refer to athletes who make the All-America teams as All-Americans? A wonderful mentor, the late Furman Bisher, a legendary columnist and sports editor in Atlanta, would scream from his office: “Everyone in this room are all Americans. But none of us have made any All-America team.”

Will it be just dandy to write or say, as is so commonly seen and heard, “try and” in a sentence as opposed to the correct “try to?”

Examine the difference in these examples:

“I am going to try and make AP change its policy on the use of ‘over.’ 

“I am going to try to make AP change its policy on the use of ‘over.’ 

As it says in the song, “Conjunction Junction, what’s their function? I’ve got and, but, and or. They’ll get you pretty far. And! That’s an additive, like this and that.”

Then later in the lyrics, “Conjunction Junction, what’s your function? Hooking up two boxcars and making ’em run right. Milk and honey, bread and butter, peas and rice.”

Certainly not try and make, no matter hard you try to make it right.

Maybe you are mumbling, who cares? It’s nothing more than just a word here and a word there, a phrase here and a phrase there, and, heck, we only have 140 characters to work with in the first place. Besides, the Internet dictionary now shows more than among the 20 listed definitions for over. And you dare challenge the Internet?

So, chill out. The sun will come up tomorrow and, if we are lucky, we can go over the bridge to visit grandmother.

Gregory Favre is the former executive editor of the Sacramento Bee and retired vice president of news for The McClatchy Co.

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