Grammar of the Day – X Times More
Here’s another one that bothers me: people saying X times more when they mean X times as many/much. For instance, if I have ten cherries (Mmm. Cherries) and they have thirty cherries, they’ll say, “I have three times more than you.” No. They have two times more. If they had three times more then they’d have forty cherries. That would be ten plus three times more equals forty.
I understand the logic of the error. Thirty is more than ten and thirty is three times ten, therefore thirty is three times more than ten. It’s an easy mistake to make. But let’s change the numbers and see what happens. Let’s say I have ten cherries and they have fifteen. Do they have one and a half times more? What if I have ten and they have ten. Do they have one time more? How about if I have ten and they have five? Does that mean they have one half more? By their logic less would equal more. The language leads to confusion.
They have an out, though. They just change the language at equality. At ten they say “same as,” and below ten they say “less than.” But they have to do some mental gymnastics to do it. They might say that five is one half less than ten, but then why wouldn’t they say that fifteen is one half more? Or they might say that five is one half as much, but then why wouldn’t they say that fifteen is one and a half times as much?
The inconsistency and the potential for confusion bother me, but I don’t see much hope for a return to good language. It’s too ingrained by now. You see it everywhere. I’ll just have to adapt to stay out of trouble. When my bicycle tire is at twenty PSI and they say I need two times more, I’ll have to remember to pump it up to forty PSI and not sixty.