Friday, October 23, 2009

Fewer posts, less time

One of my biggest grammatical pet peeves is the rampant misuse of "fewer" and "less." I am not an English teacher, but I had superior, picky junior high and high school teachers who instilled in my teenage brain basic rules of grammar. It seems that people avoid the word "fewer" at all cost. "10 Items or Less." "Less than 2,000 showed up for the show." "The team has less chances to win without the star quarterback." Yeah. I've seen/heard all of these over the past few days.

As I said, I'm not an English teacher, so I can't properly explain the difference to you (it's ingrained in me, so I just know when to use it - like "effect" and "affect"). It has to do with numbers - singles or bulk. One source explains it this way:

"Just remember that if the noun can be preceded by a number (one person, three dogs, six of us, nineteen problems), it should be modified with fewer."

A few years back the grocery store Publix in Atlanta changed those infamous "10 Items or Less" to "10 Items or Fewer." Yes! Thank you, Publix, for leading the grammatical way for the poor schlubs who don't know any better. Now, Public, watch and learn.

Thank you Keener, Sumner, Jacoway, Babcock, Moore, Johnson, Walker, and Smallwood. Yeah, we did a lot of eye-rolling over diagramming sentences and nit-picky red grammar marks on otherwise fabulous themes, but your outstanding teaching paid off for at least one (and I hope more) of your students.

And, yes, my blog has fewer posts of late, because I have less time. Hope to correct that soon.

8 comments:

SACLMT said...

Thank you, thank you!

My peeve is with the loss of the word "take," as in, "I'm going to bring this book to you." AAARRRGGG!

jomoore said...

Spooky! Just today I was tutting to myself at one of those very supermarket signs. Is it pedantic? Everyone understands what it means, after all, and that's what language is for. But... right is right, and wrong is incorrect. I'm firmly in your grammar team, Mary.

MaryB said...

Yeah, I know I'm being a stick-in-the-mud grammarian on this, but it really does rub me the wrong way when I hear/see it. Darn those teachers!

Liz said...

What really annoys me is when people write 'should of' instead of 'should have'.

Liz said...

Do they do that in America?

MaryB said...

Liz - Of course they do. Grrrr.

Dianne, Dee, Mom, Granny said...

How about "continue on"? That's one of my picky-peeves. (Thank you, Mr. Yarup and Gateway Senior High!)

MaryB said...

Dianne - Har! "Continue on!" I do hope all of our former teachers (most of whom have gone on to their glory, I'm sure) understood that we would one day really appreciate the gifts they shared with us. Even when we were being pain-in-the-ass-teenage-drama-queens.