I've encountered more or less in many different languages. Why is this idiom so widespread? In a few other languages such as Italian it's "more or less", but in Albanian it's "less or more".
Good question, I was making a list of languages that use the 'less-or-more' form, after first noticing it in Paul-Wexler's lecture, before his lecture, I assumed "less or more" is the more common form, as I'm fluent in Hebrew (where it's "less or more") and English (where's it's "more or less"), but I also spoke (not fluently) at the time two other languages where it happens to be "less or more" (Polish and Dutch), only after hearing Wexler - I've checked and seen "more or less" - is "more common". Wexler claimed the "less or more" version is a "Persian calque" and mentioned Sorbian and Polish do it too, maybe it's true through older records. Since then - I've found that -
- Serbo-Croatian - accepts both (manje-više / više-manje) ; (where as in other languages inverting the order sounds very awkward...)
- Albanian, Turkish, Persian, Hebrew, Polish, Sorbian, Lithuanian, Dutch, Frisian, Afrikaans, Basque - say "less or more" (correct me if I'm wrong about any of these)
- All sounds "kindof chinese" in a way. (Mandarin way to phrasing adjectives), Wexler in his lecture - mentioned a lot of Silk-Road related borrowing for such expressions, since they are used a lot in trade.