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I went up on the peak of the little mountain and ran my eye over the contiguous vicinity. Over toward Summit I expected to see the sturdy yeomanry of the village armed with scythes and pitchforks beating the countryside for the dastardly kidnappers. But what I saw was a peaceful landscape dotted with one man ploughing with a dun mule. Nobody was dragging the creek; no couriers dashed hither and yon, bringing tidings of no news to the distracted parents.

[The Ransom of Red Chief by O. Henry]

What is “over toward“? Is it two prepositions or an adverb + a preposition?


My first guess is that “over” means the previously mentioned place.

over

ADVERB

1.1 In or to the place mentioned or indicated.
‘over here’
‘come over and cheer us up’


[Oxford US English Dictionary]

If you follow this definition, the “over” could substitute “the contiguous vicinity” (previously mentioned place) to avoid repeating:

[In the contiguous vicinity] toward Summit I expected to see the sturdy yeomanry of the village armed with scythes and pitchforks beating the countryside for the dastardly kidnappers.

However, in such use, “over” acts as a pronoun. Why is it an adverb?


My second guess is that “over” is a repetition of the preposition “over” from the previous sentence:

“I … ran my eye over the contiguous vicinity. Over toward Summit I expected to see…”

In this case, «over» could mean:

over

PREPOSITION

1.2 Extending above (a general area) from a vantage point.

‘views over Hyde Park’
‘This area has great views over the rear garden through large windows and a set of patio doors.’


[Oxford US English Dictionary]

Then the general meaning may be:

“I … ran my eye [above from a vantage point] the contiguous vicinity. [Above from a vantage point] toward Summit I expected to see…”

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  • over + toward X = away from here + in the direction of X. There's nothing unusual about combining / chaining terms like that - we can even have over + there toward X = [emphatically] away from here + in the direction of X. Sep 25 at 16:51
  • @FumbleFingers Thanks. Please give a reference to a dictionary definition or some grammar source that confirms your explanation.
    – Eagle
    Sep 25 at 19:39
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"Over toward" is a colloquial phrase meaning simply "in the direction of." There is extremely little difference between "toward" and "over toward;" the one thing that "over" adds to the phrase is a vague sense of increased distance, depending on context. Otherwise it is essentially a filler word.

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  • Over is used a lot as a filler word in American English- for example in the Drifters' 1965 song entitled "Come on over to my place".
    – JavaLatte
    Sep 25 at 10:40
  • Please give a reference to the dictionary definition suitable to your explanation.
    – Eagle
    Sep 25 at 10:51
  • colloquial (of language) used in ordinary or familiar conversation; not formal or literary[Oxford US English Dictionary]. The quote is not from colloquial language, but literature.
    – Eagle
    Sep 25 at 10:58
  • 2
    The story is written in a colloquial voice. If this is not clear from the beginning, it should become so as the third paragraph opens: Bill and me had a joint capital of about six hundred dollars . . . Sep 25 at 11:11
  • 1
    @JeffreyCarney: Not to mention which I see the first paragraph includes "during a moment of temporary mental apparition", which obviously should be "mental aberration". Which arguably suggests we should expect even more "deviation from standard use of language" than that implied by "colloquial" as opposed to "formal, literary" :) Sep 25 at 16:59

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