“Over to”

Hello, Fellow Midwesterners.  May we talk about the construct–“over to” for a few minutes?  I use this all the time.  “He works over to the Hall of Fame.”  “She’s running over to the store.”  “I was over to his house and he took off all his clothes.”  And I learned it in the Midwest.  We would go over to the bar in Keithsburg after work sometimes.  Or over to the truckstop for dinner.

And, to me, it means something very distinct.

Let’s take the “I was over to his house last night and he took off all his clothes.”  This is much different than “I was at his house last night and he took off all his clothes.”  “I was at his house” implies that I was there in a somewhat formal manner and it is quite likely I was happy to see him taking off his clothing.  “I was over to his house” implies that I was there in an informal manner and that, as such, I was likely surprised to discover he would take off his clothes in those circumstances.

But I think it means a little more than just a sense of informality.  It also means, you might join the subject.

If you say, “I could use a six-pack,” and I say, “Well, the Butcher is at the store right now.” that means “tough shit.  You missed your chance to get beer.”  But if I say, “Well, the Butcher is over to the store right now,” I mean, “You could run over there or call him and catch him.”  There’s a possibility of interaction.

Which is again why “I was over to his house” implies that his behavior is inappropriate.  Anyone might show up.

And I have always assumed that this was widely understood, but now I’m wondering.  Is this not a Midwestern thing?  Is this just a quirk of rural Western Illinois?

Am I saying “over to” assuming everyone perfectly well understands the nuance but in reality, I just sound like I’m using two words when one would do?

30 thoughts on ““Over to”

  1. I grew up outside of Kansas City on the Kansas side and I don’t remember this construction. From your examples, the only phrase that doesn’t sound foreign to my Midwestern ears is “over to the store”. But even this would have been said as: “She’s going to the store” where I grew up.

    That said, I think that when we wanted to convey an informal event happening, we’d add “just”, as in “I just went over to his house and then he took off all his clothes.” I think that would convey the informality and the inappropriateness, both. Also, “She just went to the store” when I was a kid (before cell phones) meant you were out of luck if you wanted something, but now means you can still get what you need.

  2. I recall more emphasis on “over by” in Illinois, as in, “If yer goin’ to da Jool, could ya go to da ATM over by dere?” (Jool = Jewel, the regional equivalent of Kroger)

    Indicates relative location.

    And if you were to ask to accompany this person on the trip: “Yer goin’ to da Jool? Mind if I I go with?” “Come with”/”go with” is a peculiar upper Midwestern affect.

  3. Well, I think anyone who reads me know I pepper “justs” just about anywhere they’ll fit. Ha, I hadn’t thought about that as a Midwesternism. Same with “go with” or “come with.” I use both of those all the time.

    And, as I think about it, I think if I said, “I’m going to the Jewel…” well first I would still say “I’m going to the Jewel/Osco” because I can’t just say “Jewel” without saying “Osco.”

    And, if you wanted to come, I would for sure ask you if you wanted to go with. That’s just the way it’s done.

  4. I think it’s just an extra word that has no meaning whatsoever when used in conjunction with “at” or “to.” However, here in NJ, it sometimes replaces the word “at.” As in, “I’m over John’s house” as opposed to “I’m at John’s house” or “I’m over at John’s house.” Don’t you just hate excessive use of “quotes?” (the last sentence was for Aunt B)

  5. I’ve never heard this and hearing it spoken would hurt my Southern ears. I imagine this is what a New Yorker feels when told to “cut off the light”

  6. I grew up in the Ohio and Indiana. I would have to agree with Andy, I think I am more familiar with “over by” then “over to” maybe is just didn’t get wide spread in Indiana. I do enjoy the different dialects in the midwest. I sure miss them now that I live in FL.

  7. I’m from Minnesota and we don’t seem to use “over to” in the same ways. We’d say, “I went over to her house to pick up the keys” or “She’s on the way over to the store” — but never “He works over to the bar down the road” —

    I think the way we use “over to” cover the importance is the movement — not the destination. So, “I was over to her house” sounds odd.

  8. We said “over to” in St. Louis. I think we used it to indicate continuity of narrative, sort of as a form of present progressive. “I’m going to do this, then I’m going to go over to wherever, then I’m doing the next thing.” But it always indicated action, never location, and “he works over to the Hall of Fame” sounds completely incorrect to me.

  9. It’s a bit more of a Western Illinois/ Wisconsin/Minnesota/Iowa thing, I think. In Northeastern Indiana we’ll say ” I’m gonna go over to Susie’s” but never “Kathy’s over to Susie’s right now.”

    When we hear “over to” in the way you use it, for us it pegs someone as from that area.

    Not that we don’t have our own dialectical idiosyncracies by the bucketsfull.

    I will say, though, since Beth brought it up, that one of the few verbal idiosyncracies I actually mind to the point of wanting to murder are the people who talk about ‘cutting ON the power.’

    “We had to pay our late bill to get our power cut back on” is one of the phrases that makes me jump out of my skin. Cut is a verb that means “to seperate” or “to end”. Using that verb to describe the beginning of a process is not idiosyncracy as much as it is plain fucking wrong.

    And don’t get me started on the redundancy of “hamburger meat.”

  10. I imagine this is what a New Yorker feels when told to “cut off the light”

    Since moving to Tennessee, I’ve acquired “take [it] loose,” i.e. “The phone was connected to the jack, so I had to take it loose before I could move it.” “Be sure you take the Christmas lights loose before you go to bed.”

    Also, I’ve heard “of a(n)” quite a lot locally, when referring to something done with regularity, i.e. “I go to church of a Sunday morning.” “I get home of an evening around 5:30.” Seems endemic among West Kentuckians.

  11. Well, I was a SouthSub girl my entire life until my recent move, and I’ve never known anyone to say that, nor have I yet to hear anyone use that phrase here in the East Central (yo).

  12. Sorry, Aunt B, I don’t know what you are talking about. I do understand the basic phrase for going to a place but absolutely none of the claimed connotations and not with a place of work.

    Although I also don’t recognize Andy’s TN phrases despite being here for seven years.

    And I think Midwesterners (or is it Chicagoans) are only recently catching on to the generic “ATM” rather than the specific brand name “Cash Station” which has caused some confusion for me while traveling.

    Does anyone know what part of the country calls a seesaw or teeter totter a “dandle board”?

  13. Hmm. Well, I think it must be a Western Illinois thing, then, as evidenced by the fact that I know it and that the person who thinks it sounds vaguely similar to what she knows is from St. Louis.

    I have never heard of a dandle board.

    But I do wonder if anyone differentiated between a teeter totter and a seesaw based on size? To me, a teeter totter is much smaller.

  14. it was an answer to a trivia question that no one got and I’ve asked about 12 people from various parts of the country and Canada. No one has heard of a dandle board, well, except the dictionary.

    Could be size. Maybe the dandle board is huge!

  15. It sounds vaguely German to me. Maybe it Pennsylvania they have a seesaw so large it can hold a whole Amish family on each end!

    Where’s Coble? Maybe she knows.

  16. Dandle sounds like 18th century English to me. I would expect Dr. Johnson or Fanny Burney to know what a dandle board is.

  17. Coble is reading on her front porch with her dog hooked to her ankle. She had never before now heard the term dandle board.

    Googling leads to the revelation that dandle board is a regionalism specific to Narragansett Bay. Which strikes coble as intriguing that they’ve narrowed it down so well.

  18. Speaking of Midwesternisms, we have yet to touch on the necessity of calling certain loved ones only by their last names. The second I met Coble in person, I could only think of her as “Coble.” I don’t know how you decide when someone is to be addressed only by his or her last name. It’s for sure a sign of endearment, but also has to do with there being something especially pleasing about their last name, and something a little tough about the person. I mean, of course you’re going to call Eddie Karchezski “Karchezski.” How awesome is that name to say?

    And that doesn’t even touch on the people whose last names then get shortened. Pat Murphy becomes Murph, for instance.

  19. The last name phenomenon is not unique to the Midwest. It was common in D.C. when I was growing up. Oddly, it happened to me, even though I have one of the least pronounceable last names on the planet.

    The Southernism that gives me conniptions is when people talk about “laying in” the floor, instead of lying on. That one just doesn’t even make sense. It is not technically possible to be laying “in” the floor unless there’s a big ol’ hole in the of it. (Well, and technically you’d have to be a chicken.)

  20. Heh. None of those midwesternisms or southernisms sound strange to me (okay, some of the more elaborate ones are kind of weird, but not… incomprehensible). But someone tells me they were standing “on line” for something? Makes me want to throw things. Same with “off the chain” instead of “off the hook.” I am apparently emphatically not a northeasterner, at least as far as my ears are concerned.

  21. On my way home I was thinking more about “over to” as distinct from “to.” And I’ll have to check with people who talk with me IRL, but it seems to me that I personally use “over to” (or, very occasionally, “up to”) almost all the time, except for major trips. (And even then, I’m likely to say I’m going up to St. Louis.) Let’s see: I go to work, but I might go to the office or over to the office. I go to the doctor, but I just go over to 20th Ave. to get there. So “to” may be for more formal or abstract destinations, or more distant ones. But really, “over to” meaning “at”? That’s just wrong. Maybe you mean “over at”? I might say that.

    And what about calling people one has met over the ‘net by their nyms IRL? I have a large circle of friends I met that way. We’ve been meeting in person regularly for more than a decade now, but we mostly still use each others’ nyms.

  22. I’m from Joliet, and can say that I’ve never heard the “over to” thing. Then again, it could have just assimilated into my being, and I don’t remember. I’m sure I’ve used it to indicate I was going over to someone’s house or something, but don’t make any sort of distinction between that phrase and others.
    I totally feel you on the “go with.” though – ahh, memories.
    My paternal grandmother, who was from Oklahoma, used to say “directly” a lot, as in, “I’ll be there directly.” However, the way she said it made me think for a very long time that the word was spelled “dreckly.” HA

  23. Do y’all have the many and varied uses of ‘get’ that far north? Because my grandparents (Alabama folks) use ‘get’ to mean “do,” “finish,” “watch,” “turn on” … pretty much any kind of verb that points to a state change in the thing being acted upon. “Did you get your lessons?” (“Have you finished/Did you finish your homework?”) “Can you get the light?” “Did you get your shows last night?”

    I’m sure there are more southernisms (like pronouncing “idea” as “idear” or “ideal”) to talk about, but my brain is well and truly fried right now.

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  25. In Kansas we did “over to.” Also “down to.” My grandma always says: “Make yourself to home” instead of “at home.”

    Also the “of a” construction — but of course they’re Scotch-Irish, so that makes sense. (And before anybody thinks about schooling me on how it’s not “scotch,” rest assured I do so on solid linguistic footing.)

    Ooh! Another thing: People in my family say “striped” with two syllables — stri-ped. They’re superficially Kansan but really Ozark and Appalachia natives — and I want to know who else says “STRI-ped” like that.

  26. I agree with nm that we used “over to” to imply continuity of narrative. Also, I would add that it had a flavor not of informality but rather of duration. “At” implies an indefinite length of time and also (to my mind) the irrelevance of the location to the point of the conversation.

    So, “He’s at the store” means you’re SOL because he’s not here and never you mind why, and “He works at the DMV” means that’s just where he works, is all. But “He’s over to the store” is more open-ended, meaning you could hustle over and catch him up if you wanted to, with a hint that there’s more on the agenda even if that’s the only thing he does all day, and “He works over to the DMV” means that’s where he’s working now, and who knows how much longer that will last?

    I think “I was at his house and he took off all his clothes” has more of a sense of “that’s not the point and we’re not discussing it”. “I was over to his house and he took off all his clothes” sounds more as if it’s the beginning of a really juicy story, and the “over to” construction makes it sound as if your presence when this happened was complete happenstance. I think it’s actually a kind of Germanic construction, because there’s a whole class of prepositions that take either an accusative or dative object depending on the intent of the motion (e.g., walking up next to a sidewalk vs. walking on the sidewalk).

    I am from SW Michigan, but my mother’s family is all from southern Indiana and southern Illinois, so I’m familiar with all the subtleties of the phrase as used by various aunts, uncles, and cousins.

  27. Ooooo. I hadn’t considered that i might have picked up “over to” from my Michigan folks. I still think I picked it up in western Illinois, but I could be wrong. And I think you’re right, Original Lee, there is some sense of duration to it, too.

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