May 30, 2005


moreso From a student's homework assignment, a week ago:
(1)  Number one is not necessarily a problem with pronouns, but moreso just an incorrect slip of the tongue.
The moreso caught my eye.  In a minor way because of the spelling, as a single word.  In a major way because of the usage; spelling moreso as two words doesn't make the sentence any less baffling to me:
(2)  Number one is not necessarily a problem with pronouns, but more so just an incorrect slip of the tongue.
More so is functioning here like contrastive more (not far from rather in its effect), reinforcing the but.   I can use more, without the so, this way --
(3)  Number one is not necessarily a problem with pronouns, but more just an incorrect slip of the tongue.
or more of (preferably losing the just) --
(4)  Number one is not necessarily a problem with pronouns, but more of (just) an incorrect slip of the tongue.
But more so just doesn't cut it for me; the so seems extraneous.

Recent versions of the OED recognize the spelling moreso (in the U.S.) but not the innovative usage in (1) and (2), or further innovations to be found in writing on the web.  I offer this material as fodder for lexicographers, along with some speculations about the development of innovative moreso/more so.

First, the spelling question.  The spelling moreso is deprecated in several usage sources (for example, Paul Brians's Common Errors in English Usage and Evan Morris's Word Detective site), but it is very common, and the Dec. 2002 draft revision of the OED relevant subsection on more mentions it as an American variant:
(5)  With ellipsis of the word or sentence modified.  Now freq. with anaphoric so... in more so (also, chiefly U.S. moreso).
In what follows, I'll mostly be citing examples with moreso, simply because searches for this variant produce less junk than searches for more so.  But all the uses below could be equally well documented with more so examples.

Now, on to the uses, beginning with those documented by the OED.  As background, there are occurrences of more with "zero anaphora":
(6a)  1852 M. ARNOLD Farewell viii, I too have wish'd, no woman more, This starting, feverish heart away.

(6b)  1862 G. BORROW Wild Wales lii, 'Are the clannish as the Highlanders?' said I. 'Yes', said he, 'and a good deal more'.

And then more followed by anaphoric so:
(7a)  1735 G. BERKELEY Def. Free-thinking in Math. §28 This is so plain that nothing can be more so.

(7b)  1788 J. MADISON in Federalist Papers lvii. 158 The districts in New Hampshire in which the senators are chosen immediately by the people, are nearly as large as will be necessary for her representatives in the congress. Those of Massachusetts are larger than will be necessary for that purpose. And those of New-York still more so.

(7c)  1816 J. AUSTEN Emma I. xii. 209 'I only want to know that Mr. Martin is not very, very bitterly disappointed.' 'A man cannot be more so,' was his short, full answer.

(7d)  1997 C. SHAW Sc. Myths & Customs x. 223 Anyone perceived as being different from society's norms was a potential target--no-one moreso than the local wise-woman.

The important point here is that more with zero anaphora and more with anaphoric so are in alternation.  Either could replace the other in the examples in (6) and (7); (7d) with plain more is especially felicitous, to my ear.  The choice between one variant and the other is a stylistic one.  One relevant effect is that, in general, explicit anaphora, as in more so, tends to be seen as more emphatic or contrastive than zero anaphora, as in plain more.

This is as far as the OED goes.  The examples are all anaphoric.  But the so in (1) and (2) is not anaphoric.  It is, however, contrastive/emphatic, a fact that suggests a possible route from the system illustrated in the OED to the system illustrated in (1) and (2): alternating more and moreso have been reinterpreted as mere plain and emphatic counterparts, with no necessary anaphoricity.  This system is amply illustrated on the web, notably by many examples with moreso followed by than:
(8a)  Even moreso than in our dealings with our fellow humans, our dealings with the life world are mired in traditions which vary from gratitude and awe to harvesting and stewardship and on to subdue and exploit.

(8b)  I would say that the term Theism implies a system of belief based on tradition and dogma moreso than on logic and empirical observation.

(8c)  The grace of the art is there moreso than in karate, etc., but it is not dancing. It is relying on physics and other principles moreso than karate etc. ...
but also without an explicit than for comparison, as in (1) and
(9)  My wife and I were watching the making of Disney's Oliver and Company on DVD. Unlike today's extensively (and sometimes exhaustively) researched "making-of" featurettes, you could tell this one was used moreso as a marketing tool.

At this point, moreso is open to a further reinterpretation, as a simple contrastive sentence adverbial glossable as 'even more, it is even more the case (that/since)', without any specific standard of comparison implicated:
(10a)  Unpopulated structural elements of 'national households' evolved; moreso, those structural elements were developed (from the beginning of the most harsh environmental requirements for expenditure of human life on Earth).

(10b)  Of course I want this guy to stop spamming people, but moreso, I want this guy to at least take my email off his return path when sending out these... lofiversion/index.php/t3738.html

(10c)  Hello,
Am mr donald ,a pilot by proffesion and i reside in the glad to inform you that am sicerely interested in the adoption of your pet. am guarantee the pet a lovely home .  Moreso the pet is coming to a large and a fenced garden in which it will be comfortable in playing up to any length. At the risk of sounding rude kindly let me know the last asking price , moreso i would love to see the pics and as well i want to know the name of the pet.  [AMZ: Except for bolding, I've left this remarkable item exactly as it appeared online.]
or as a simple contrastive adverb combining with a NP and glossable as 'especially':
(11a)  People and moreso, soldiers, should know that conscientious objetion is not about any particular war, but to war per se,...

(11b)  Yeah, you'll notice that most of the retards you run into play hunters and rogues, hunters moreso. php?act=findpost&pid=1451187

In all these developments, the connection to anaphoric comparative more (so) hasn't been entirely lost, though the uses have drifted pretty far from the models in the OED.

zwicky at-sign csli period stanford period edu

Posted by Arnold Zwicky at May 30, 2005 01:09 PM