Barry: Why this Tesco decision is plain stupid
Sep 3 2008 By Barry Gibson
AS I may have mentioned before, I’m a bit of a grammar pedant.
I hate to see English being mangled – especially by a certain balding Examiner reporter.
So normally I would welcome this week’s news that Tesco is abandoning its abominable signs at its express tills which say "10 items or less".
Items are countable, so the notices should read "10 items or fewer".
After pressure from the Plain English Campaign, Tesco has agreed to change these signs. But strangely, not to "10 items or fewer" but rather to a compromise solution of "up to 10 items".
This move befuddles me. Is "fewer" the new F-word?
A spokesman for the Plain English Campaign justified the compromise by saying: "There is a debate about whether the word should be ‘less’ or ‘fewer’. Saying ‘up to 10 items’ is easy to understand and avoids any debate."
What a strange quote. There is no debate – ‘fewer’ is the correct word and ‘less’ is incorrect.
It’s like saying there is a debate between those who think two plus two is four and those who think two plus two is 17.
I think the anonymous spokesman needs to work on the plainness of his own English.