Saturday, October 31, 2009


Some problems with this advertisement for a pocket ashtray. 

The top line reads: A green way to toss away your cigarette ashes.  Make it cigarette ash, since the word ash is uncountable (hence singular) in the context of tobacco, wood, coal or volcanoes.  The plural ashes is more appropriate for cremated bodies and for buildings, etc. destroyed by fire.

The next line reads: Your environmental friendly Pocket Ashtray.  The compound adjective is more commonly environmentally friendly (adverb+adjective) or environment-friendly (with hyphen).

The last line is the exhortation, Don’t be a Tosser, keep the city clean!  The word tosser is a bit unfortunate here since it is, among other things, a swear word with the literal meaning ‘one who pleasures himself’.


The romantic query letter and the happy-ever-after said...

Tosser, love it. Thanks for making me laugh.
Happy Monday

The Grammar Terrorist said...

I don't think 'tosser' carries that meaning here in Singapore, so I guess most people don't see the funny side of it!

Anonymous said...

ashes here meaning ash from more than one type of ciggy perhaps?

The Grammar Terrorist said...

I really don't think so -- 'ash' in this context is uncountable, so it's singular no matter how many ciggies/varieties of ciggies it comes from.

Some uncountable nouns may be used as countable when they refer to 'varieties of' (e.g. coffees, metals, sugars, fishes, fruits), but this doesn' apply to 'ash'.