The Pet Peeves thread of the writers’ forum I frequent has now been going strong for an astonishing four months and has passed the 3,000-comment mark, with peeved journos and eds popping up all the time to add their rants about mis-used words and bad grammar.

One of the things that’s been enraging them recently is the irritating use of “less” when “fewer” is meant, and vice versa.

Just as greengrocers’ apostrophes drive the pedantic to distraction, so does supermarkets’ use of “less” (as in “10 items or less at this checkout”).

I remarked that I’d got such a warm glow on seeing the correct “fewer” used in Waitrose that I vowed to shop there again. The grammar-deficient Morrisons, I added, with its insistence on “less items” and its missing apostrophe, could bog off.

This prompted an enquiry from an American as to whether I meant “bug off” as he’d not heard the expression before.

Two other forum members told him no, that was right; bog off is a British English expression. One said I was deliberately making a play on words, what with the supermarkets’ use of “bogof” (buy one get one free) promotions.

Actually, she’d credited me with being more clever than I really am, as this hadn’t occurred to me.

I did learn something new though; “bog off” derives from “bugger off”, according to Another source,, offers this amusing definition: “a word upper-middle-class kids that are up their own arse use to say ‘fuck off’ or ‘piss off’ because they are too posh to swear”. This definition cites “Bog off, Dave, stop humping my leg” as being an instance where bog off might be used.

This said it so much better than I could have done, so I threw this definition into the discussion. One of our resident pedants immediately pointed out that that it should read “…kids who are up their own arses”.

Pic  credit: Tungphoto,