bulk noun, plural in form, less and fewer
Posted: 19 December 2007 03:59 PM   [ Ignore ]
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I know most of you don’t give a damn about the use of “less” for countable nouns, as it is indeed a very old practice and is dominant in real world English. Brave descriptivists, I salute you!

So this question is addressed to the other sector of humanity, those that scrupulously say “less milk” but “fewer apples”. I know you’re out there.

What would you say in a case where the noun is plural in form but bulk in logical nature?

I’m thinking particularly of “emissions”, a big topic these days.

Surprisingly (for me at least), “fewer emissions” wins the googlefight but a narrow margin.

“fewer emissions” 64,100 googlits
“less emissions” 50,900 googlits

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Posted: 19 December 2007 09:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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“lower emissions” 238,000 googlits (though in some of them “lower” is a verb)

A hydrogen car has fewer emissions than a normal car (H20 only vs H20, CO, CO2, partially burned fuel, etc.).
A hybrid car has less emissions than a normal car (same emissions in smaller amounts).

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Posted: 20 December 2007 12:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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As already implied in Myridon’s post, there are all sorts of possibilities.

- “An 80-year old leprechaun has less emissions than a lusty 16-year old one”.

- “An 80-year old leprechaun has fewer emissions than a lusty 16-year-old one”. 

If we speak here of nocturnal emissions, both the above statements could very well be accurate.

However, if the emissions referred to are gaseous, both statements (here I speak from personal experience - not as a leprechaun) will as a rule be false.

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Posted: 20 December 2007 02:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I think “fewer emissions” sounds better, not least because “less emissions” is so full of sibilants, and I would probably use it unless there were a quantitation nearby.

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Posted: 20 December 2007 08:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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who knew that there was such a word as quantitation?

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Posted: 20 December 2007 11:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I’m sure some ghleymlr0d or citag knew that.

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Posted: 21 December 2007 11:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Who’re you calling a citag?

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