I’ve been struck lately that fewer and fewer people are using the word fewer. The reasons why the trend began are cloaked in secrecy (although I am convinced THEY* are responsible), but fewer‘s nemesis, less, has definitely gained the upper hand. Even in edited media, I’m seeing fewer less and less and less more and more.
Knowing the distinction between less and fewer used to be a mark of basic education. Fewer applied to things that can be counted; less was for things you measure. There were some exceptions for time, money, and distance (you’d say “I have less than $20,” even though you counted the money in your pocket), but the basic rule was pretty easy to learn and remember. If you didn’t know the difference, you were a yokel.
Somewhere, THEY (the members of that secret society that rules over us all) decided it was all too complicated. So a campaign began to use less more and fewer less until less more or less replaced fewer. Soon, if all goes according to THEIR plan, the English language will be fewerless.
* Note: Information about THEY is difficult to obtain, naturally enough since THEY are a secret group. I used to think the group’s name is an acronym: The Highly Effective Yahoos. With the growth of the Internet, Yahoo came to have a different meaning. An error on my part or yet another example of the group’s cleverness in directing attention away from its mysterious manipulations of society?