fewer sense

Some of you will have seen this HBF sign (and shuddered) as you sped down the Bumpkobahn to Prevvers and Margs. Someone was enraged enough to email HBF after they had stopped shuddering: here is the correspondence.

HBF replied: Thanks for your email regarding the ‘less gaps’ advertising. You’re quite right too, the traditional use of ‘less’ is used for amounts that can’t be counted (eg ‘there is less water in the bottle’ as opposed to ‘there are fewer people in the room’).

I believe the copy writer who wrote this campaign intended to use the word as an adjective (meaning smaller in size, amount or degree). This is a common colloquial use of the word – but you’re right, it’s not traditionally accurate.

The English language is certainly complex as we have so many words with similar meanings – and culturally we seem to play with language too, resulting in some interesting communications! That said, at HBF we generally prefer to stick to traditional rules of grammar.

When launching the advertising, we were aware that ‘fewer gaps’ was the correct term, but chose to take a bit of creative licence as the campaign was based on a ‘less’ and ‘more’ concept (eg More hospitals to choose from, less gaps, more hospital charges covered etc), so ‘less’ and ‘more’ had a better advertising ‘ring’ to it than ‘fewer’ and ‘more’.

We appreciate the feedback. It’s always good to hear how our advertising is perceived so we can take all comments on board in the future.

The response to the reply was: Thank you so much for replying — I somehow imagined my email had flown off into the ether.
I also imagine that you really do not want to engage in further discussion, and would rather your polite reply had put an end to this matter.
But as a linguist and editor, I cannot accept your description of a grammatical tenet as “traditional”, or indeed anything with which anyone can “take a bit of creative licence”.
We are talking ad copy here; not Sylvia Plath.
The assumption of your second par is simply wrong. Less is not the comparative form of the adjective and cannot possibly mean “smaller“.
Fewer is as common and easily understood an opposite of “more” as “less”.
With respect and appreciation for its well-developed and modified grammar, we can allow our language to evolve, which is the natural and philosophically logical process.
What your ad copy allows, and perpetuates, is mutation, which is change of a very different and undesirable nature.

This entry was posted in worst advertising, worst sign and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to fewer sense

  1. Deefock still in da house. They’re like cockroaches.
    Free beer Brett also mentions this ad. He got a fewer comment too.


  2. “But as a linguist and editor, I cannot accept your description of a grammatical tenet as “traditional”, or indeed anything with which anyone can “take a bit of creative licence”.
    We are talking ad copy here; not Sylvia Plath.”

    Dear Plonker. I don’t care if you’re King of Joondalup. With ad copy we can take whatever fucking licence we want. Sylvia Plath indeed! Good day sir. I SAID good day.


  3. orbea says:

    mutation doesn’t have to be undesirable, it can occur as a result of exposure to environment, hence driving to Bunbury on the BumpkinObahn and beyond drops IQ points of drivers. Not sure if it works in reverse.

    In fact on a highway don’t we want more gaps?


  4. Clint says:

    Forget the grammatical issues, I think that with how bad Perth driving already is, to put up a sign at the side of the Highway that promotes even more tail-gating is damn irresponsible!


  5. Bento says:

    It’s not DFOC claiming he’s an editor, is it? Mittyesque, that one.


  6. caribou bob says:

    What a word wowser. We’re publishing 30 pages of nothing but emoticons for the next edition. Deal with it.


  7. Shazzanator says:

    This looser needs to get a life.


  8. Russell Woolf's Lovechild says:

    Less standards.


  9. The Legend 101 says:

    Dont you relise that it is for dental.


  10. Hughie says:

    There’s one on Stirling Hwy in Preppy Gove too. It’s been giving me the shits for some time. I’m glad someone else has been sufficiently irritated to take it up with the perpetrators.


    • Hutch says:

      Wish someone would get their pathetic ads off TV that imply sufferers of fatal illnesses should be grateful for their affliction.


We can handle the worst

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s