One less product to buy

Do we really need to go over this?

I have received suggestions from readers that I review the rule for “fewer” versus “less.”  I confess, I dismissed these because the rule is clear and I assumed most people knew the difference.  I am sorry to say I was wrong.

Last week I said I wouldn’t be taking Boniva or buying Honey Bunches of Oats for the same reason:  my boycott of products whose commercials contain grammatical errors.  Now I must add to the list MGD 64, the dieters’ version of Miller Genuine Draft.  According to its current television commercial, MGD 64 has “less calories” than other reduced-calorie beers.

I am too tired to rant again so soon over the ad industry’s growing disregard for correct language.  Instead, might I just ask, why not say “fewer calories?”   I am tempted to believe it is less an oversight than it is a presumption that “fewer” flies over the heads of Miller’s target demographic.  Please tell me I’m wrong.

Is it possible that advertising companies intentionally use poor grammar to appeal to a specific class of consumers?  The ad gurus at Grey Poupon hit their high-brow target with their famous commercial years ago.  Pardon me, but it seems Miller is deliberately going for a less sophisticated crowd with its overt illiteracy.

Everyone knows “less” refers to an amount of something, as in less beer.  “Fewer” refers to a number of something, as in “fewer calories.” 

Less snow, fewer snowflakes.  Less hair, fewer strands.  Yes, got it.

Now can we move on to something a little less obvious?

Postscript:  Speaking of intentional poor grammar, am I the only one wondering why yesterday South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham phrased his question to Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, “Where were you at on Christmas Day?”  He knows better.


Filed under All Things Wordish, Food, Marketing/Advertising/PR

6 responses to “One less product to buy

  1. Sharon

    Not to be difficult, but wouldn’t “one product fewer to buy” be equally correct, since products can be counted and the number of different products you would consider buying has now been decreased by one? Or should it be “one fewer products?” What are the rules for “one less xxx” vs. “one xxx fewer vs. “one fewer xxxs?” (I now have a headache.)

    As to Senator Graham’s usage, I consider “where were you at” to be a colloquialism, much like the word “y’all.” As a life-long northerner I would never say it, but it doesn’t bother me when voiced in a southern accent.

  2. Deirdre

    Perhaps Mr. Graham was targeting the MJD 64 demographic.

  3. Dennis Jones

    No idea what Sen. Graham was at.

  4. Stephen

    I’m willing to accept “one less” as proper grammar, but “less calories” just sounds stupid. I hate that commercial.

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