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January 19, 2011


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I don't claim to be a grammar maven; however, my first thought upon looking at the picture of the ad (before I even read your post) was "they forgot the second part of the compound word - savings ACCOUNT".

I would say 'a saving of $100', not 'a savings of $100'. British/American thing or just personal choice?

@Izzy: I can't speak to British usage, but according to Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of [American] English Usage, "a savings" (to mean "an act or instance of economizing" or "reduction in cost") has been seen in American English since at least the 1940s, and has been recorded "with increasing frequency in the decades since." But neither this usage note nor Garner's (which I cite in the post) addresses the specific meaning of "savings" in the ad: "accumulated funds."

To my American ears, "a saving" sounds very formal, even quaint.

I think the issue is that we're generally fine with singular "savings" when it's not actually the subject. In "This is your savings," "savings" is a nominative complement, and English is generally much laxer with agreement between nominatives and their complements than between nominatives and their verbs.

And as you note, Nancy, "savings" in the sense of "reduction in cost" is more acceptable as a singular because the sense is singular, even if the form is technically plural. But "savings" as "accumulated funds" is still notionally and morphologically plural, so the singular verb is weird. It's not quite as bad as "Is our children learning?" but it definitely sounds wrong to me.

Aha! Thank you, Jonathon.

I love my super-smart readers.

I remember back in the '70s how confused the old glam-rock magazine CREEM used to get about this - "Aerosmith Eat Lunch" or "Aerosmith Eats Lunch"? "KISS Shop for Shoes" or "KISS Shops For Shoes"?

And where should those question marks go?

Tangentially, when I worked at the record store, we'd alphabetize records by the leader's last name, if it was a real person in the band. So, The Brian Setzer Orchestra is under S, but Jethro Tull is under J.

Robin Trower is under T, but Lynyrd Skynyrd is filed under L.

Sawyer Brown is under S, but Buckingham Nicks is under B.

Well, let's be honest, Buckingham Nicks was always filed under Fleetwood Mac. Which was under F.

But what about Alice Cooper (a quintet led by Alice Cooper)? And Ben Folds Five (a trio featuring Ben Folds)?

It always comes back to band names for me.

I know in advertising that sometimes the grammar isn't as important as the impression, but this is really clunky. Don't they run these concepts through batteries of people - and didn't they cringe?

Izzy is correct; it's a British/American thing.

'A savings of...' is rarely seen in the UK. I just did a search (one that you can't do in the US) and these are the results.

"A savings of", worldwide net = 358,000,000

"A saving of", worldwide net = 2,070,000

"A savings of", UK sites only = 45,800

"A saving of", UK sites only = 751,000

Just to check, I went through the first ten pages of the UK-only search for 'a savings of...' and high proportion were of US and Canadian origin (for instance, quotations from North American writers).

'Just thought it was interesting.

It';s a Canadian thing too, we would say, "a saving of $100".

I vote to make "I Can Has Cheeseburger" a language of its own . . .

The grammar is only the last straw. I've been seeing these ads in my local (San Jose) paper for the past few months, and I keep wondering what their marketing dept. was thinking (or drinking) when they approved this campaign.

First, the bar graph that looks like it was created in a 1995 version of Photoshop. Second, whenever I see the ad, I always think it's selling cigarettes because the bars remind me of cigarette packages, so I'm already turned off. And, with this particular version, they've hit a new low by also managing to insult old people.

I Googled "'Capital One' 'Is your savings'" and expected to find a whole slew of sites slamming this, but, surprisingly, yours was the only one I found, and that's a little unnerving. Does that mean everyone else sees nothing wrong here?

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