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Off topic: few or less ? Tesco's answer
Thread poster: nordiste

nordiste  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 12:49
Member (2005)
English to French
+ ...
Aug 31, 2008

Tesco is to change the wording of signs on its fast-track checkouts to avoid any linguistic dispute.

The supermarket giant is to replace its current "10 items or less" notices with signs saying "Up to 10 items".

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/7590440.stm


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Peter Linton  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:49
Member (2002)
Swedish to English
+ ...
9 or 10 items ? Aug 31, 2008

To me, "Up to 10 items" means "9 items or fewer" (or less)". What do other people think ?

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Giles Watson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 12:49
Italian to English
Ten items, not nine Aug 31, 2008

Hi Peter,

The OED gives as one of the definitions of "up to": "As many or as much as; including all below (a specified number, etc.)" and quotes a 1910 ethnographical handbook that talks about a canoe "carrying up to thirty-six men".

This would be a distinctly strange way of saying that the vessel could only take thirty-five on board!

FWIW

Giles


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:49
English to Spanish
+ ...
10 is still OK Aug 31, 2008

But often you can sneak in a few more items than that in the express line and get away with it.

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Peter Linton  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:49
Member (2002)
Swedish to English
+ ...
9 or 10 items - resolved Aug 31, 2008

Thank you, Giles, for resolving a problem that has haunted me every time I have bought a few items at Tesco. I can now boldly present 10 items at the checkout, not 9, and flaunt my OED at them.

By the by, the etymology of 'Tesco' is unusual. Many decades ago a grocer called Cohen decided to offer his own brand of tea in his shops. He commissioned a tea merchant called T E Stockwell to make a blend, to be called "Tesco Tea" after their names. Only later did it become the name for the whole company.


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xxxmediamatrix
Local time: 08:49
Spanish to English
+ ...
Try that in Tesco's and see what happens! Aug 31, 2008

Henry Hinds wrote:
But often you can sneak in a few more items than that in the express line and get away with it.


That sort of behaviour may by OK on the TexMex border, but I'd recommend against trying it in Tesco's. Unless, of course, you want to expand your vocabulary of British swear-words!

MediaMatrix


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:49
English to Spanish
+ ...
In that case... Sep 1, 2008

Tesco can do without my money and my clientele. I have never taken kindly to being told what to do by merchants.

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tectranslate ITS GmbH
Local time: 12:49
German
+ ...
Come on, Henry! Sep 1, 2008

It's not about the merchant - I'm sure they would be happy to sell you any number of items at any checkout - but you're p'ing off the other customers who are in a hurry.

Personally I don't mind anyone taking 11 items to the fast-track checkout and I've been known to shamelessly use it for even more than that whenever nobody else was using it, anyway.


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QUOI  Identity Verified

Chinese to English
+ ...
per customer or per transaction? Sep 1, 2008

I always wonder about this. If my wife and I have 20 items, is it ok to use the "10-item or less" checkout? What if my two children are also with us? Can we have 40 items and still use the express checkout? Or I can pay two (or 4) separate payments but it will slow the checkout even further.

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Nicole Y. Adams, M.A.  Identity Verified
Australia
Local time: 21:49
Member (2006)
German to English
+ ...
Starbucks Sep 1, 2008

nordiste wrote:

Tesco is to change the wording of signs on its fast-track checkouts to avoid any linguistic dispute.

The supermarket giant is to replace its current "10 items or less" notices with signs saying "Up to 10 items".

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/7590440.stm


Well, maybe there's hope after all and we will live to see the day when Starbucks reprint their napkins and change "Less napkins. More plants. More planet." to "Fewer napkins". Irritates the life out of me every time.


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Elena Robles Sanjuan  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:49
English to Spanish
How far can we go trying to be linguistically fair? Sep 1, 2008

I am one of those customers who never reads anything that is not the label on each product. I´m always flying around supermarkets and can never be bothered to read the entire content of special offers like "buy one, get one free".

Therefore, whenever I´m at the checkout carrying only one of the items of the offer, I´m sent marching back to the shelves to get the other one, sometimes exceeding 10 items as a result of this. Annoying for the other customers, I know, but that´s not the point here.

My point is, should they then say "up to 10 items, but if there is a special buy one get one free offer, the second item doesn´t count?".

Customers who are up for disputes, will always find a way to provoke it.


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Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:49
French to English
+ ...
Is it April 1st already...? Sep 3, 2008

At first I wondered if this was an early April Fool.

Obviously this summarises everything that's ludicrous about blind prescriptivism. The thing that's most perplexing is that the source of the re-wording is apparently the Plain English Campaign!?! I'd have said that "10 items or less" was a fairly plain, unambiguous, natural-sounding phrase-- exactly the kind of wording that the PEC generally tries to advocate...?!?

Another thing that struck me is: even if you could identify the reason why we "should" say 'fewer' rather than 'less' with countables (maybe the BBC interviewed God?), is there actually anything prescriptively against the familiary supermarket phrase being an ellipsis of "10 items or less [shopping]". Then everybody's happy, Tesco don't need to reprint their signs, and the money saved can be passed on to the customer in the form of a 1p discount on Tetley teabags.


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Wendy Cummings  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:49
Member (2006)
Spanish to English
+ ...
the size of a napkin Sep 5, 2008

Nicole Y. Adams, M.A. wrote:

Well, maybe there's hope after all and we will live to see the day when Starbucks reprint their napkins and change "Less napkins. More plants. More planet." to "Fewer napkins". Irritates the life out of me every time.


Perhaps they don't intend to reduce the number of napkins available, but to reduce the size of each napkin?

Less napkin for your money??


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Marjory Hord
Mexico
Local time: 05:49
English to Spanish
+ ...
less/fewer Sep 6, 2008

On an assignment my translation students did from spanish, was the phrase "less/fewer than 24 hours later" and I indicated that "fewer" was correct much as several preferred less. I mean it is a count noun, right?

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George Hopkins
Local time: 12:49
Swedish to English
Look it up Sep 8, 2008

When I was a child, in response to a question my parents often said, ‘Look it up’, but made certain that I found an answer.
A sound habit.
I practised it on my own children and now on my grandchildren.

Quote:
Less should not be confused with fewer. Less refers strictly only to quantity and not to number: there is less water than before. Fewer means smaller in number: there are fewer people than before.


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