Nerds Gone Wild | Confessions of a Grammar Nazi

Okay, I have a confession.


Call me a Grammar Nazi, or judge me for being annoying, but this is who I am. I like words. I like the way the same 26 letters (in English) can be arranged again and again to create beautiful phrases that inspire and excited and evoke emotions. I’m not one of those people who comment on random Facebook posts to correct them, but I do cringe when I see the mistakes.

And I am not alone. Recently, I was writing a Facebook update about my academic advisor. I typed the word “advisor” and my browser underlined it with a red squiggly line, indicating a misspelling.

I was pretty sure that I hadn’t made a mistake, but consulted the almighty Google to be sure. Which is how I found this from The Grammarist:

Adviser and advisor  are both accepted spellings of the noun meaning one who advises or counsels. There is no difference between them. But adviser, the older version, is listed as the primary spelling in most dictionaries, and it is about five times as common as advisor in current news publications from throughout the English-speaking world.

In the U.S. and Canada, advisor is commonly used in official job titles, but adviser is still generally preferred over advisor in North America, and advisor is only marginally more common in American and Canadian English than in other varieties of English.

Well, thanks internet, that’s very helpful! But wait, there’s more. Read the comments:

  • re “five times as common as advisor”
    Something cannot be five times as common as something else, but can be five times more common than something else

    •  keebali 
      We’ve received comments elsewhere saying the opposite–that “times more” is wrong. I guess we can’t win.

      • Leah 
        Not when you’re playing with nerds! 🙂
      • Let’s turn it around. “One fifth as common” versus “one fifth less common”. Both are actually sound statements, but they mean very different things. “One fifth as common” means 20% of the original… “one fifth less common” means 100%-20% which is the same as 80% of the original. Now applying the same logic to the “five times” case, “five times as common” is the correct usage as intended, as it implies 500% of the original. “Five times more common”, by analogy, would be 100%+500%, or 600% of the original. This is because “more” implies addition (like “less” implies subtraction). In other words, your usage is correct, and I believe gram is mistaken.
      • reardensteel
        Well played.
        • Hmm… that kind of makes sense, but I always use the method I was taught above.
        • Mmmm… consider ‘five times as common’ to be ‘5x as common’ which means 5x Y Therefore it would be 5×100= 500
      • When using a comparator (“more” or “less”), you use “than” to maintain the “more than” or “less than”. In this case you need to use “more common than”. You only use “as” when they are equal “This is as That is” or “This is as common as That.”
        • Angling Anglefish 
          “Twice as common” is wrong? “Twice more common” is correct?
          • Karl 
            They are saying that “Twice as common” would be double and “Twice more common” would be triple or 200% vs 300%, however you like to see it. I agree with them but English is my second language so I’ll let you all figure it out. Good reading though
          • Maria Tyler 
            In math we would interpret “Five times as” to mean 5x, but we would interpret “Five times more” to mean 5x + x = 6x. – Math Professor

Nerds. I love them.

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