'10 items or less' becomes 'Up to 10 items'

I'm sorry to bring up 'less vs fewer' so soon after the last time we discussed it, but I must share with you a news story about supermarket chain Tesco altering its '10 items or less' signs to read 'Up to 10 items' in an attempt to avoid 'less' and 'fewer' altogether.

As the story mentions, and as you may have realised, the new wording is amusingly ambiguous:

A Plain English Campaign spokesman said: 'There is a debate about whether the word should be "less" or "fewer".

'Saying "Up to ten items" is easy to understand and avoids any debate.'

That may prove to be wishful thinking, as some would argue 'Up to ten items' could be taken to mean 'ten items and no more' or 'nine items or fewer'.

Thanks for this one, Ro.

7 comments:

Becky said...

In the States, the classier supermarkets say "fewer." That's how you can tell the quality of a supermarket.

Gloom Raider said...

A few years ago, a local store went through something similar: chain A ("fewer") was taken over by chain B ("less"), while I waited to see what they'd do about that.

Eventually, they put up a sign that said "EXPRESS LANE: 1 TO 15 ITEMS."

JD said...

Ah, very clever! 'BASKETS ONLY' is another way around the problem (but one you don't tend to see much any more).

Editrix said...

Oooh! I like the approach Gloom Raider brought up. "1 to 10 Items" would be an ideal solution for Tesco, wouldn't it?

Billigflug said...

:D Editrix hits the mark. But the whole discussion is funny in my eyes.

The Ridger, FCD said...

The Fred Meyer grocery store (well, giant groceries plus everything else) in Washington state says "around a dozen items" in its express line. I so wish I'd had my camera with me.

Ant said...

M&S used to be the gold standard on this, but a couple of years ago I spotted this:

http://mcauleyenglish.wordpress.com/2007/02/19/have-ms-got-fewer-standards-than-they-used-to/