"by the each" again

Jeff Prucher 000000b93183dc86-dmarc-request at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU
Fri Aug 1 18:03:53 UTC 2014

There are tens of thousands of items on Amazon listed as being "by the each": https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=site:amazon.com+%22by+the+each%22. (You can do the same with amazon.ca and amazon.co.uk, with similar quantities of results.)

GBooks is a bit hard to sort out, but searching for "sold by the each" finds a number of hits of interest, mostly dealing with wholesaling or retailing, and covering the whole of the 20th century: https://www.google.com/search?q="sold+by+the+each"&tbm=bks. Note how many of these include some or all of the phrase in scare quotes.


So I think we can put the "computer error" hypothesis to bed, as well as my regionalism hypothesis. My best guess now is that this is wholesaler/retailer jargon (hence the scare quotes, perhaps), which is fairly widespread across industries. Dictionaries (DARE excepted) have likely missed or omitted this either because it is seen as jargon or because it appears outside the sources used by the dictionaries (e.g. trade publications and in-store labels and shelf-talkers).

Jeff Prucher


On Thursday, July 31, 2014 7:40 PM, Joel S. Berson <Berson at ATT.NET> wrote:

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>Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>Poster:       "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET>
>Subject:      "by the each" again
>A week or so ago Trader Joe's was recalling stone fruits from 
>California due to the possibility they were contaminated with 
>Listeria monocytogenes.  The posted notice at the checkout counter 
>said for a list of various stone fruits "Sold Individually (by the 
>each)."  (Some other fruits were said to have been sold not by the 
>each but in "4LB Boxes.")
>Today, I see the same wording is on their web site:
>Looking back to February and Arnold's blog --
>The suggested explanations of "a not very sophisticated computer 
>program for making the labels" and "a failure to change the settings 
>on the label printer properly" can't I think apply to text on a web 
>site followed by a list of items, but rather must be created by 
>humans.  Although I suppose there might be macros within the 
>computers of the customer-updates minions that speed up typing the 
>"by the ..." text.
>The gloss "by the each" is as though it is an explanation of the 
>phrase "sold individually," although the latter seems likely to be 
>more widely understood than the former.  In any case, using both 
>phrases together removes any possible ambiguity that a shelf label 
>advertising price might have.
>If it had been a regionalism, Trader Joe's may have made it viral via 
>its 418 stores across the U.S. (as of 16 May 2014).
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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