There it was, glaring out from the middle of the page like the cadaver of a New
York City cockroach lying legs-up in the middle of a bowl of freshly-whipped
heavy cream. The writer had misused the word further:
The bowling ball with the teflon coating traveled further down the track than did the conventional ball.
Just to be certain, I clicked on Words and Expressions Commonly
Misused, a chapter of the exquisitely informational yet sublimely brief The
Elements of Style. Lo and behold, I Strunk out! "Further"
wasn't there, neither was farther.
To worsen matters, Webster 1913 opined primarily, that the
words "further" and "farther" were essentially interchangeable. For heaven's
sake how long ago could it have been that I'd read a marvelous piece by William
Safire in The New York Times Magazine which specifically pointed out
that the word "further" was being misused more and more often. Had Safire been
in my town at that time, I'd have literally ran miles just to visit his hotel
room, shake his hand in thanks and hug him. Thank goodness Mr. Safire's location
was at that time unknown to me. Suffice it to say he was farther away than I
could drive to see him, much less run.
Oh, how often in business meetings do we hear "this project is
just in the planning stages, the implementation phase is much further
down the pike." No, no, no.
This project is just in the planning stages, the
implementation phase is much farther down the pike. Further
analysis of market research will be necessary before expenditures and
efforts are made to take the campaign national.
Now, that's more like it.
The explanation for the difference between our beloved
turn-of-the-century dictionary and modern usage was pointed out by www.hubpages.com:
Further relates to a metaphor for distance or depth.
It's an unquantifiable time, degree or quantity. It also means "additional," or
Farther relates to a conceivably measurable distance,
a point on a finite scale, or even a hypothetically exaggerated distance:
Sinatra topped the charts most often; Dean Martin and Sammy
Davis, Jr. next, with Perry Como farther behind, a distant
fourth with only six top-ten hits.
Cars of equal make, model and accessories traveled up to one
mile farther on a gallon of gasoline containing the additive "Extrol."
Jeremy's peculiarly large penis made the other Abercrombie
models jealous; if he didn't wear briefs, it would hang farther
than the limits of even the most generously-sized shorts.
I found Mr. Safire's article, "Simpsonese" in the "On Language"
column of The New York Times, September 18, 1994 here.
I've reprinted the relevant portion below:
"The aim of NATO's future expansion," the Clinton Administration's
National Security Council staff writes in its strategy statement, "will not
be to draw a new line in Europe further east, but to expand stability,
Quoting this line in a recent polemic, I put a [sic] — the Latin word
for "so, thus" to mean "error in the original" — after further. That's
because the word for distance is farther, and the word for degree or
expressing a sense of "beyond" is further. Furthermore (only say "farthermore"
in the Situation Room), you can use further to mean either degree or
metaphoric distance, but you should use farther only for physical distance.
UPDATE 12/19/2007: I changed the example sentence at the beginning of this writeup to a more overt example of the improper use of "further" than my original, which I concede was confusing.
maxclimb wrote: " Fowler's Modern English Usage points out that futher is 'the comparative of fore' indicating 'more advanced' and that farther is a variant of further but that the perceived connection to far leads to the notion of 'more distant'. He points out that most people use one OR the other in all cases. He concludes by stating that as a verb, further wins hands down. One of my pet bits of usage trivia as well.
hapax insists, however, that the terms are interchangeable freely, and agrees with Webster 1913.