Saturday, October 16, 2010

PLAYOFF GRAMMAR for October 16, 2010

Do you know what today is? Hmmm? If not, I'll tell you. It's the first NLCS game! Phillies vs Giants! Doc vs Lince! And...I'm gonna be there! Papa Grammarphile and I will be going to the game. I'll be there with my Doctober shirt on, waving my red and white pom-pom, ringing the hell out of my red cowbell, and screaming/squealing ad nauseum. Papa Grammarphile, if he's smart, will show up with a straitjacket and muzzle (kidding...sorta).

Anyway, here's a Phillies/Giants-related error. It's one of my pet peeves--screwing up less vs fewer. The Giants had ten fewer errors than we did, dammit. And I have fewer grammar errors in this post than whoever wrote the above article. ;)

LET'S GO, PHILLIES!

5 comments:

Wishydig said...

but why is this an error? this use of less on count nouns has been in the english language from the very beginning. the early cite in the OED gives an example from ælfred's boethius — and it's been in use since at least then, by fine writers. even in edited and published academic writing.

how is it a mistake?

Cole Garrett said...

Sorry about the phillies last night ... That's why they play a series, right? :)

Go Rangers!

THE GRAMMARPHILE said...

Hi, Wishydig--Actually, the basic rule is "Less and fewer are easy to mix up. They mean the same thing—the opposite of more—but you use them in different circumstances. The basic rule is that you use less with mass nouns and fewer with count nouns."

That's taken from Grammar Girl's website. The full article is here:
http://tinyurl.com/62r49k

We're dealing with a "count noun" situation here... Therefore, the writer mentioned in my blog post really should have said "10 fewer" instead of "10 less."

THE GRAMMARPHILE said...

Thanks, Cole! Luckily, Sunday night's Phillies game was awesome, and now the series is tied...woo-hoo!

Also, Cliff Lee's complete and utter domination of the Yankees last night is still making me smile this morning. Go, Phillies and Rangers! :)

Wishydig said...

thanks for the response. while i appreciate the explanation of the rule, i still have to challenge the claim.

i understand the premise that less should be used only on mass nouns and adjectives (less water; less difficult…) but as i see it, that claim is based purely on a preference.

it's pretty clearly based on valuing only one use/function per word. but fluent, native speakers of english use less with both count and mass nouns. and edited writing has allowed it as well.

while it's true that native speakers would not use fewer with a mass noun or with an adjective, it's obvious that less isn't bound the same way. many usage guides promote the value of the mass/count noun distinction.

grammar girl does a nice job explaining her preference, but it's not an accurate description of actual grammar.