September 5, 2008

Ensnared by Controversy!

While partisan politics rage, Unexpectedly Bart! has maintained the impartiality it's come to be known for during its weeks of existence.

But recent events force us to take a stand.

Tesco, the largest British groceries chain, has bowed to the forces of grammatical virtue and stopped making checkout signs reading “Ten items or less.”

Our apologies! Like us, no doubt your blood simmers at this wanton abuse of the King’s tongue. “Less” means “not as much.” Thus, supermarket signs should read “Ten items or fewer.” (If you can count the objects in question, use "fewer," otherwise, use "less." For example: "I eat less food by consuming fewer mangoes.") It's a common mistake, as the ad at the top of this entry charmingly displays.

But Tesco took the coward’s way out. First, the mighty retailer considered “Baskets only” signs. Ha! Do Tesco's managers have egg white in their veins? Ultimately, the chain decided on signs reading “Up to 10 items.”

The Plain English Campaign approved of Tesco's change: “Saying 'up to ten items' is easy to understand and avoids any debate.” But we disagree! “Up to ten items” could be interpreted as “nine items or fewer” or even “ten items and no more.” (Wait, is that right?... Yes, it is!)

Fiery rhetoric on this matter will soon burn up the blogosphere, and protest songs will be sung. Just remember, Unexpectedly Bart! joined the fray early on, with a blog entry of 270 words or less.

Fewer.

Whatever.

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