31 August 2008

A less-on for all shops

So, Tesco has finally bowed to pressure and decided to scrap its infuriating "10 items or less" checkout signs. Pretty much all the other supermarket chains did the decent and right thing a while back and made the necessary changes. I really don't understand why Tesco still is unsure about using "fewer", though. It's been explained to them by that splendid body, the Plain English Campaign, no doubt in words even a 7-year-old could understand. Other supermarkets don't have a problem with "fewer" - I believe Marks and Spencer use it, and (I think) Sainsbury, too.

But at least "less" is going. Using "up to 10 items" or even "under 10 items" are acceptable colloquial alternatives for the pedants among us, as well as easily grasped by everyone. Less is never an acceptable substitute for fewer. The difference between them is simple to understand. You use fewer for anything you can count and less for anything you can't. You wouldn't say "Can you make fewer noise, please?", for example.

Tesco is the biggest supermarket chain in the UK - an eighth of everything comsumers spend ends up in its tills (that's 12.5%, which might not sound much in the great scheme of overall consumerism but it's a lot for one company). Tesco, while being rather bad in some ways (like a lot of large corporations), has also used its might to push through some good things, like the drive to reduce plastic carrier bags. So it's a shame they have taken so long to realise the damage they have been doing to national literacy standards.

But, hey, Tesco has finally seen the light! I'm looking forward to seeing the new signs when I next do my weekly shop. Because the signs are too high to reach with some tippex and a marker pen...

No comments: