Reading students’ papers this summer, I kept stumbling over their use of less for fewer. But it is not a typically Dutch error (as I have to see it in my role as their teacher), nor is it new. For a paper I’m writing for the 5th late Modern English Conference at Bergamo, later this month, I analysed a very early American usage guide, 500 Mistakes of Dayly Occurrence (1856), and the problem is already included there. I still have to check our HUGE database to see if earlier occurrences can be found, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they do.
Interestingly, Peter Tudgill, too, recently paid attention to the issue, in a column he wrote for the Eastern Daily Press (22 July 2013). It should be just readable in the image he allowed me to reproduce here. Comments welcome, as usual.