We have all seen the way fewer meaning fewer in number, has been being (??) replaced by less meaning less in amount. It is a phenomenon that probably has been with us all along b/c a lot of examples show that the speaker was thinking of the gathered number as a mass and therefore “less” was applicable. We’ll see.
“There was less arrests.” Probation officer
i.e. the total amount of arrests was reduced, was less.
“less lawsuits” repeated twice (??) in the same interview – Mayor Giuliani of NY. Again, thinking of lawsuits in the aggregate.
“That means less storm systems.” – meteorologist. This one is hard for me to justify.
“I would say even less.” Well educated teacher re the number of dictionaries needed. Here the aggregate of our supply of dictionaries is being thought of (??)
“A lot less kids walking the halls….” a teacher, seeing the amount of kids as an aggregate.
Here’s an interesting twist:
“There’ll be fewer oranges; we just don’t know how much fewer.” A grower on npr on 1/17/07 The fewer works but not with much instead of “many fewer”.
“…. less American troops…” -council on foreign relation’s Richard Haas. Again, an aggregate.