Monday, December 21, 2009

Spotted in the Wild

My boss sent me a link to an article with this headline:

Survey Finds Consumers Buying Less Books Due to Current Economy

This is the result of all those damned signs in the supermarket checkout lanes. "10 Items or Less," they wrote, so that they could fit all the letters on the sign.

Less refers to single items of fluctuating size.
Fewer refers to countable items.

If we each have a glass of wine, and I drink half of mine, then I have less liquid in my glass.

If we each have three fortune cookies, and I eat one of mine, then I have fewer fortune cookies on my plate.

Less liquid. Fewer fortune cookies. That's my mnemonic device, and you're all welcome to borrow it.



Deb Salisbury, Magic Seeker and Mantua-Maker said...

Survey Finds Consumers Buying Less Books Due to Current Economy

Groan! Oh, that hurts. Kids will point to that and say "It's in print, it must be right."

(Hangs head in dismay.)

Kelsey (Dominique) Ridge said...

I think that I will, from now on, be unable to think of this rule without thinking, 'Less liquid. Fewer fortune cookies.'

Clare K. R. Miller said...

I twitched when I read that headline!

Why don't they make the supermarket signs say "No more than 10 items"? That seems like it would be just as short...

Unknown said...

This is my favorite typo ever:

Dave Shaw said...

Maybe they meant lesser books?


Eva Gale said...

To me it just sounds wrong. But that's a cool tool you've got there. I'm going to borrow it and implant it in my children's brains.

Stephen Kozeniewski said...

So, if I drink your milkshake, then you have LESS milkshake?

Edittorrent said...

Dave, I did wonder if maybe there was a run on short story collections.

Yes, Redleg, unless you drink all of my milkshake but still have your entire milkshake. Then we might be referring to countable objects. (Your milkshake + my milkshake = 2 milkshakes. Take away mine, and there'll be trouble. heehee) Sounds strange, though, doesn't it?


Jami Gold said...

Great explanation, Theresa. Thanks!

(I love these little tricks to make things easy to remember.)
Jami G.

Dave Shaw said...

Arrgh! Now that you've pointed this out, Theresa, I know what bothers me so much about TNT's "More movie, less commercials" slogan. GAH, that's annoying, and I can't ignore it any more!