(From a vodka ad campaign in Romanian Playboy, uncensored here.)
We say ‘one calorie’, or ‘two calories’, ‘three calories’, etc.
But we say ‘zero calories’ or ‘no calories’, as if it were a multiple like two, three, etc.
Yet if we say ‘not one calorie’, we say it thus, but ‘no calories’ thus.
We say there is one egg in the carton, or two eggs, or three eggs, or a dozen eggs.
Or if there are none left, we say there are zero eggs or no eggs – pluralized, as if zero were a multiple like two, three, or a dozen.
We will say ‘not a single egg was left’, but we’d say ‘no eggs were left’.
A math puzzle, courtesy of Futility Closet:
A mother is 21 years older than her son. Six years from now, she will be five times his age. Where’s the father?
One of the most vivid arithmetic failings displayed by Americans occurred in the early 1980s, when the A&W restaurant chain released a new hamburger to rival the McDonald’s Quarter Pounder. With a third-pound of beef, the A&W burger had more meat than the Quarter Pounder; in taste tests, customers preferred A&W’s burger. And it was less expensive. A lavish A&W television and radio marketing campaign cited these benefits. Yet instead of leaping at the great value, customers snubbed it.
Only when the company held customer focus groups did it become clear why. The Third Pounder presented the American public with a test in fractions. And we failed. Misunderstanding the value of one-third, customers believed they were being overcharged. Why, they asked the researchers, should they pay the same amount for a third of a pound of meat as they did for a quarter-pound of meat at McDonald’s. The “4” in “¼,” larger than the “3” in “⅓,” led them astray.