The Case for Less Words

Brian Beutler was trying to convince me to skip the NBA Finals and go with him to see Drag Me To Hell tonight. I objected that, among other things, I don’t like horror movies. First he said it’s not a real horro movie, “it’s a comedic horror movie like Evil Dead, only funnier and less monsters.” Then he corrected himself: “fewer” monsters.

Matthew Yglesiaseh, I think I’ve got a solid plannever did understand the less/fewer thing though

Brian Beutlerreally?fewer is for countable itemssuch asmonstersless is for abstract quantitiesyou have less milkor fewer gallons of milk

Matthew Yglesiasyeah, yeah, people always reexplain it to methen I forget againsounds like b***s***if we just abolished the word “fewer” we’d be in good shape

Brian Beutleri don’t know man

Matthew Yglesiashow does it really help us?

Brian Beutler“I’ve got less gallons of milk”sounds weird

Matthew Yglesiasless words!more easier to learn the language!

I’m prepared to stand behind this view. The less/fewer distinction isn’t really that hard to learn, but it would be much easier to not have to bother. I can’t think of any situations in which the existence of the two different words is actually helpful to our understanding of what’s being communicated. Native speakers of the English language have a perverse tendency to take pride in the difficulty of our language, but it’s not actually a good thing.