PEDANTRY - 1: AS MANY NOT MORE
So often these days, a broadcasters will say, for example:
- Such and such was 10 times bigger,
- The thingamabob is 5 times higher, or
- The whatchamacallit will be 3 times more.
My problem is that ‘MORE’ and ‘TIMES’ have different and distinct meanings. Putting them together in this context is confusing, not logical, and for me, downright bloody irritating.
BIGGER, HIGHER and MORE each indicate a difference between two, measured values.
TIMES indicates a multiple (or a fraction or ratio) NOT a difference.
If it is appropriate to describe something as bigger, higher, wider or greater than something else, then that is a description of the difference between two values indicated by some measure. In arithmetic that's a minus sign. Times indicates a multiple which as an arithmetical operator is a multiplication sign (or if the difference is expressed as a fraction or ratio, then a division sign). So any statement of comparison of size which includes the phrase times more is inherently unclear and defies logic. Is 3 times more a difference of 3 or a multiple of 3?
A few years ago I was working through a Bond Maths book with one of my daughters. One of the questions read:
What is 3 times more than 4?
3 times 4? Easy. 3 more than 4? Also easy.
But 3 times more than 4. You tell me.
(I would love to say that I wrote 3 times more, just have a little fun with the english and the logic, but I didn’t, so I can't.)
One of my daughter’s maths teachers, a few years ago, set a homework question which read: ‘How many times is 12 bigger than 4?’ I sarcastically suggested that my daughter should write 2 as her answer on the grounds that 12 was bigger than 4 each time we looked at it , and we looked at it twice.
So please don’t say X TIMES MORE, say X MORE or X TIMES AS MANY depending on what you mean.
Actually I should have written: X MORE or Y TIMES AS MANY, because generally ’MORE' and ‘TIMES AS MANY' have different values. If Janet has 6 apples and John has 2, then Janet has 4 more apples than John, but 3 times as many. There is an exception. If Janet had had 4 apples and John had had 2, then both ‘more' and 'times as many' would be 2. The exception proves the rule. (It doesn’t, of course, that would be ridiculous.)
What this is about is clear thinking and accurate, unambiguous communication. Times more is a messy conflation of two terms with different meanings. I beg you, in this context, never to write it or say it. You could argue, I know, I know. Why the fuss? Language is constantly changing, but logic isn’t.
By the way, that example from the Bond Maths book that I quoted, written as an arithmetic question, would be: 3x+4=?
Thank you for reading this far.
The number or people who go to football matches is 3 times the number who go to the theatre in the UK. I've made up that statistic that for the purposes of my argument.
So I would write:
3 times as many… Others would write: 3 times more...
If the numbers were twice as many (I’m going to write twice as 2 times to help the flow of the argument) So I would write:
2 times as many… Others would write: 2 times more...
If the numbers were equal then following the sequence logically I could write (though I wouldn’t)
1 times as many… Others might write: 1 times more...
Actually I don’t believe that anybody would write ‘1 times’ so it can be removed.
So removing 1 times my sentence would read:
1 times As many people go to football matches as go to the theatre in the UK
Removing 1 times from what others might write we get:
1 times More people go to football matches as go to the theatre in the UK
And there is the problem: My sentence is still correct. The others’ sentence is incorrect and vague.