Why is “further and further” preferred to “farther and farther” in the following sentence?

Man: The real culprit is free, and he’s further and further away with every hour you waste prancing around in here.

– vs –

Man: The real culprit is free, and he’s farther and farther away with every hour you waste prancing around in here.
I would have thought “farther” would be the correct word to use here, as the speaker is talking about the ever-widening distance between him and the culprit. But the original sentence written by a native speaker uses “further” instead. So I was wondering why “further” might be a preferred word here? Many thanks.

I think farther is correct and the original sentence was written by a native speaker who doesn’t know the correct usage

Even native speakers have a tough time with certain words and phrases which sound very similar. This is one of them. Heck, I once met a native speaker of English who didn’t know the difference between “sale” and “sell”.

You are correct. “Farther” is appropriate when discussing distance.

I agree that “farther” is probably correct here, but depending on the context, “further” could be correct. For instance, the criminal in question might currently be in communication with you, but is in the process of going underground/off the grid/etc. He might be becoming increasingly difficult to find even if he isn’t getting physically farther away.

Thank you. Now I see that the actual distance is not the only factor to consider here and the use of “further” is warranted as well.

If the culprit is hiding in the woods seven miles away, they will have a much harder time finding him than they do when the culprit is as many as 100 miles away but living a normal life in a town.

Someone who speaks British English can correct me, but I’ve read that the distinction in American English between the two is less on that side of the Pond. In American English we tend to use farther for physical distances and further for abstract ones, but they use the two moe interchangeably.

I don’t use the word “farther”. Ever. It’s a glaring Americanism, to this Commonwealth English-speaker (and others - “It is especially interesting to note that the BBC corpus contains absolutely no cases of farther”), and doubly so when there’s an attempt at making the distinction in the OP. And Oxford says either usage is correct.

I didn’t know that American English distinguished between the two, so there’s my new knowledge of the day (so far. Or fur :D). And I’m a British English speaker, English teacher and linguistics graduate, so if I didn’t know the difference then most people probably won’t, arrogant as that sounds.

As a slightly pedantic English English speaker, I have never use farther either.

In the first published example that came to my mind, it’s used in a song, by an American singer/songwriter to describe someone that is falling into a coma, and it is of course… “Slippin’ farther an farther away”

If you’ve got ten minutes to spare for a good lyrical journey, - YouTube
(lyrics on screen, farther and farther @ 2:49)