More Than Over and Above: Dispelling the Myth

Over means the same thing as more than. So does above. Saying that a symphony ticket cost you more than $100, above $100, or over $100 are all equally acceptable ways of saying that you must really love Mozart. "Uh, huh," you say. "So what's the big deal?" The big deal is, not everyone knows this. It may be common sense but it's not common knowledge. One house style guide I consult regularly stipulates that "over" should never be used instead of "more than." But there's nothing wrong with doing so. The usage is not incorrect; the style guide is. Don't believe me? Okay, then, believe Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary Eleventh Edition. Among its definitions for over and above used as prepositions are these, complete with examples:
Above--3: exceeding in number, quantity, or size: more than <men above 50 years old>. Over--3a: more than <cost over $5>.
Why Is This Important? Maybe it's not if you're not a copywriter. But if you do write copy, then you regularly encounter situations where having just one way to express inexact figures would drive you nuts. For instance:
In a survey of more than 600 men more than 35 years old who purchased a used car more than five years old, more than 75 percent spent more than $10,000.
Ecch! See how much more naturally the following version reads:
In a survey of more than 600 men over age 35 who purchased a used car more than five years old, over 75 percent spent above $10,000.
Now, I will grant you that the sentence can use further refining, but it illustrates my point. Presumably, the converse also holds true for less than (or fewer than) and under, though don't quote me on that, because I haven't looked it up and don't intend to do so here. I also will leave the nuancing of above, over, and more than for you to figure out. Just reshuffling their order in the above example suggests to me that there are subtle differences, primarily with above. But going strictly by their definitions, all three are as interchangeable as different brands of table salt. English grammar has enough complexities; let's not confuse them with inanities. You know what Winston Churchill said about never ending a sentence with a preposition.* The same spirit applies here. Next time you want you say over or above instead of more than, go ahead and do so, that's what I say. Seize the adventure, you intrepid soul. ADDENDUM: The pushback I've gotten on this post reminds me that I'm not the only person in this world who cares a great deal about words. Having processed input from other writers who haven't agreed with me on this topic, I think the tone of my post was exuberant to the point of flippancy, and I wish I had taken a more mature, balanced approach. I haven't changed my stance, but I think I could have done a better job of communicating it--an embarrassing thing for me to admit as a writer. I now consider the above post to be just the first part of the discussion. Please check out the comments for part 2. It consists of one person's thoughtful, well-reasoned input and my response. --------------- * He said, "This is the sort of bloody nonsense up with which I will not put." At least, so the story goes, though what his exact words were, nobody knows. That's a whole ’nother issue which once again I won't get into. You can read more about it here if you're interested.