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#186185 07/30/09 02:12 AM
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Jackie Offline OP
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There's a television commercial advertising pills which you have to take two of per day, as opposed to these others which you take eight of per day. The narrator says it's "four times fewer". Is that accurate?

Jackie #186189 07/30/09 09:45 AM
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Linguistically it sounds kinda funny. I might go with "one-fourth as often" but I don't think there's anything wrong with it mathematically. What would you think "four times fewer" than eight would mean?

Faldage #186194 07/30/09 03:57 PM
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it's bogus from the standpoint that it really depends on the size of the dosage of the active ingredient(s) (among other things), as opposed to the number of pills. but that should be obvious, I suppose.
-ron o.

tsuwm #186199 07/30/09 11:01 PM
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Good point. But OTOH there's something to be said for taking fewer pills even if they are a higher dosage.

Faldage #186201 07/31/09 02:12 AM
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Jackie Offline OP
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Hm. Well. I have heard n times more than something, so I guess n times fewer would mean the opposite. It just sounded strange.

Jackie #186212 07/31/09 10:25 AM
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Originally Posted By: Jackie
It just sounded strange.


What I meant by saying it sounded funny, linguistically.

Faldage #186239 08/01/09 06:05 AM
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In my brain, mathematically, "four times fewer" is nonsensical. What would one time fewer mean? Four times fewer would be better phrased, for me, as "one fourth of".

A bit OT, am I the only one that grinds my teeth when 'fewer' and 'less' and 'under' are synonymized? "Less calories" ~ aaaargh! "Under 300 calories" ~ grrrrr! I know that common usage, by definition, isn't incorrect, but . . . .

(less fat ~ no problem)

seapea #186242 08/01/09 09:13 AM
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What's the difference between 'four times fewer' and 'four times less'? Is it between time and substance? Could it have been used it in this case? We only have one word for both.

seapea #186244 08/01/09 11:55 AM
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Originally Posted By: seapea
In my brain, mathematically, "four times fewer" is nonsensical. What would one time fewer mean? Four times fewer would be better phrased, for me, as "one fourth of".





For that matter what would "one time more" mean? I do agree that "one fourth of" would be better.

Faldage #186247 08/01/09 01:22 PM
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As I hear this commercial, the narrator means that you take 2 instead of 8 pills - one fourth of the number of pills - not that you take pills one time a day instead of five times - which is four times fewer. Obviously, the narrator is using 'times' in the arithmetical sense and tries to invert the multiplication by adding 'fewer'. I hate that.


As tsuwm points out, fewer pills does not mean less medicine or less pain relief. If I'd just quit grinding my teeth, I might have fewer headaches.

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