Re: Wonderland

In message <cltbf5log5gkop4vvbn1pps4uovte0e6aa@xxxxxxx>, Linda Fox <linda.ff@xxxxxxxxxxxx> writes
On Fri, 06 Nov 2009 13:13:02 +0000, Nick
<3-nospam@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

badriya <badriyavv@xxxxxxxxx> writes:

On Fri, 06 Nov 2009 09:28:44 +0100, BrritSki <BrritSki@xxxxxxxxx>

I am not very happy with train seat reservations. Last month I took my
Mum back to Cornwall by train from London so booked a single ticket for
her and a return for me, but there was no obvious way to book the seats
to be together.

As it happens we were in the same coach and it was not a problem as less
than half the seats were reserved, but I'd like some choice over where

I'd say fewer than half. Less sounds wrong to me here but I've
noticed similar use in other places and I know umrats are usually
grammatically correct so does it matter either way or am I wrong?

I think the problem is that "less than half" is an established idiom.
But in this case, rather than referring to half of a quantity of
something, your "half" means a specific number, but unless we know how
many seats we don't know what it is. This requires[*] fewer. So the
two things are in opposition.

In general, when idem comes up against grammar (or logic), idem
wins. So "less than half" is correct here IMAGO.

[*] As I've said before, I find this a pointless distinction. We manage
perfectly well with "more" to mean the antonym of both "less" and
"fewer". If the supermarkets said "no more than 10 items" there is both
nothing wrong, and no analogous way to get it wrong. Therefore the
distinction serves no purpose other than to let people get hot under the
collar about nothing.

I tend to reserve fewer, usually, for putting _immediately_ before the
noun it refers to, so I couldn't bring myself to say "less children"
but would be happy to say "there were less in the class" or even "I
saw less than 20 children in there", and certainly "less than half the
class" and probably "it was finished by about half of Mrs Jones' class
but less of Mr Brown's". Anywhere where it could by some stretch of
the imagination be referring to a number rather than a quantity,
IYSWIM, sounds all right with "less".

I do seem to spend all my time correcting "we done", and I play
endless games with "can I go to the toilet quickly?" ("How on earth do
I know? Could you last time you tried?") which is particularly
tiresome or teasing of me, considering that most adults would probably
say can in those circumstances. And speaking of what adults do, we
always tell children to go and wash their hands before they eat, but
how many of us do that regularly, unless we've been doing a mucky job?

Miss - Miss! Miss - me Miss, I do! (We have wet hand towels on a daily basis to prove it; I hate having mucky paws and am constantly washing them).
Mike McMillan,
The email address is spam trapped but any genuine communications may be sent to
mike dot mcmillan at ntlworld dot com

"Let's all calm down shall we? Let's forget there is a llama in here at all."
(Lynda Snell, 010603)

Tel: (+44) 0118 9265450. website: <>