Sunday, September 11, 2011

Hypercorrection with 'fewer'

Saw this in a game story tonight and have seen it more often than not lately:

Lattimore finished with 27 carries for 176 yards and one touchdown, one fewer scores than defensive lineman Melvin Ingram.

 Yes, the guide is that you use "fewer" when things can be counted, as touchdowns can. But these are guides for a reason - other considerations can come into play and modify the situation. In this case it is idiom - in American idiom we don't generally say "one fewer," we say "one less."

Why? That's why it's idiom, which is often the language equivalent of "just because" as etymological origins become hazy or disappear over generations. (In other cases, we can trace back when and why something became idiom, like "out of sorts," which actually refers to printers being angry because they were out of "sorts," the small pieces of cast type used for spacing.)

So here it would be "one less score than."

To do otherwise is hypercorrection.

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At 9/11/11, 12:12 PM, Anonymous oximoron said...

ten years ago. my personal opinion:

At 9/11/11, 8:47 PM, Blogger Doug Fisher said...

Thanks for your comment.

To anyone who wants to follow the link - it is not on point as to this post. However, in the spirit of 9/11, I will leave it up.


At 9/12/11, 8:18 PM, Anonymous oximoron said...

yes, I lived yesterday in the spirit of 9/11. and know very well, that my post is not on the point to yours.

Thank you for it! :)

At 9/14/11, 7:28 PM, Blogger Bill Bennett said...

The same rules would apply in UK English in this context. Except none of us have a clue about anything to do with American Football so it would be left in the too hard basket.


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