less variable than beef

raymondaliasapollyon

Senior Member
Chinese
Typically, we compare two entities of the same sort, so that we say "John's hat is bigger than Peter's," not "John's hat is bigger than Peter" (unless, of course, we are deliberately comparing a person's size with an object's).

But I saw the following sentence in a dictionary. Is it natural and correct?

The quality of pork is often less variable than beef.
 
  • rhitagawr

    Senior Member
    British English
    It should really say than that of beef, where that refers to the quality. This construction's a bit formal, so I wouldn't be surprised to hear than beef in speech. But I'd be surprised to see it in a dictionary.
    Cross-posted.
     

    rhitagawr

    Senior Member
    British English
    No, you couldn't. Than beef avoids the rather formal than that of construction. Than that of Peter would be grammatically correct. But it would sound ridiculously formal in speech.
    I don't know why than beef, although not brilliant, is acceptable colloquially and than Peter is wrong. They're the same thing, after all. Perhaps it's because you can't say beef's but you can say Peter's, so there's no need to turn Peter's into Peter. Perhaps it's because there's a difference between Peter and Peter's hat, but there isn't much difference between beef and the quality of the beef.
     
    John's hat is bigger than Peter = Peter is a tiny midget. John's hat towers over him. :eek::eek::eek: Real objects are being discussed

    No normal comparison is being made, there's no variable happening, just an absurd statement that might only make sense in a fairy story, as you yourself noted.

    So, somehow the introduction of intangibles like "quality" and "variable" allow for the clipped off version between pork and beef to be acceptable.

    Cross-posting with Flo52.
     

    raymondaliasapollyon

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    John's hat is bigger than Peter = Peter is a tiny midget. John's hat towers over him. :eek::eek::eek: Real objects are being discussed

    No normal comparison is being made, there's no variable happening, just an absurd statement that might only make sense in a fairy story, as you yourself noted.

    So, somehow the introduction of intangibles like "quality" and "variable" allow for the clipped off version between pork and beef to be acceptable.

    Cross-posting with Flo52.
    How about "John's intelligence is even more incredible than Peter"?
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    How about "John's intelligence is even more incredible than Peter"?
    Peter is incredible (9 out of 10 on a scale of incredible-ness) and John's intelligence is more incredible than that (10 out of 10).

    You want:
    John's intelligence is even more incredible than Peter's (intelligence).
     

    Florentia52

    Modwoman in the attic
    English - United States
    How about "John's intelligence is even more incredible than Peter"?
    Providing different examples of the same error will not yield a different answer, raymondaliasapollyon. You have not addressed the basic problem: that you can not compare beef to the quality of pork, Peter to John's hat, or Peter to John's intelligence. You need to compare the quality of beef to the quality of pork, Peter's hat to John's hat, and Peter's intelligence to John's intelligence.
     

    raymondaliasapollyon

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Providing different examples of the same error will not yield a different answer, raymondaliasapollyon. You have not addressed the basic problem: that you can not compare beef to the quality of pork, Peter to John's hat, or Peter to John's intelligence. You need to compare the quality of beef to the quality of pork, Peter's hat to John's hat, and Peter's intelligence to John's intelligence.
    My intention was to test Dale Texas's hypothesis that "somehow the introduction of intangibles like 'quality' and 'variable' allow for the clipped off version between pork and beef to be acceptable."
     

    rhitagawr

    Senior Member
    British English
    Personally I don't think pork and beef are words which can take an 's possessive.
    I'd say John's hat is bigger than hers and not ...bigger than her even if we were comparing hat with hat.
    I suppose you can (just about) get away with than beef, at least in speech, because you're talking about beef as a general phenomenon, whereas hats and Peter are physical entities.
    We're talking about the English language, so we shouldn't expect consistency.
     

    bibliolept

    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    Personally I don't think pork and beef are words which can take an 's possessive.
    I have absolutely no problem with using the 's possessive with either beef or pork. It sounds perfectly natural to me, and a cursory web search suggests that I am far from alone there:
    Will Fake Meat Take Pork's Spot In The Meat Case?
    Non-destructively sensing pork's freshness indicator
    World food trends: Pork's top place challenged by chicken
    Beef's big impact on Earth
    Beef's role in weight....
    New York Beef Industry Council - Beef's Story

     
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