Save our Sheringham - Say NO to Tesco

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Bad marks for Tesco

Pedants across the land applauded a few years ago when Marks & Spencer removed offensive "six items or less" signs from its stores. Good English demands "six items or fewer", which was the wording M&S adopted. Similarly, the company this year withdrew a line of children's pyjama tops showing a picture of two giraffes below the words "baby giraffe's". Quite right, too: no child should sleep in a garment sporting a stray apostrophe. So a reporter was expecting thanks from Tesco for alerting it to the fact that its store in Islington, north London, is repeating the old M&S howler. "Ten items or less", the signs say. But Tesco responded this way: "Our research shows customers actually feel more comfortable with the wording 'or less'. However, we always keep these things under review."
What? Tesco, we know, worships at the altar of customer choice but the only choice here is between correct and incorrect wording. The comfort of Tesco's customers, poor lambs, is irrelevant. It is simply not in Tesco's gift to change the language. Some things remain beyond its realm.
By the way, has anybody encountered Tesco's linguistic researchers? Do they loiter among the fruit and veg asking if shoppers would prefer their tomatoes without an 'e'?