Forgotten World (168): Croatia

Croatia, with a population of less than 5 million (mostly Catholics), is one of the new, small countries to emerge from the break-up of the former Yugoslavia. It entered the new millennium recovering from a decade of authoritarian nationalism under President Franjo Tudjman and bitter war, but it has now joined the World Trade Organisation and pledged to open up its economy and it has achieved growth and controlled inflation. However, organised crime and mafia-linked violence remain a major concern.
By early 2003, Croatia had made enough progress to apply for European Union membership, becoming the second former Yugoslav republic after Slovenia to do so. Accession talks were postponed because of its failure to detain General Ante Gotovina, wanted by the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague, but the fugitive general was later arrested in Spain and the country now hopes to become a member of the EU by 2011.


  • Eric Lee

    The population of Croatia is ‘fewer than’ 5 million, not ‘less than’ 5 million. See this article on the BBC News website for an explanation why.

  • Roger Darlington

    It’s a sad day when an American has to correct his British friend in use of the English language. After all, we invented it. But you are of course right, Eric, and I always welcome correction and education.

  • Nick

    I think you were correct originally, Roger. “Population”, is a singular noun, and of the type that can be modified by “less than”, as in Roger’s original text.
    See this piece by linguist Arnold Zwicky, which dissects the BBC article cited by Eric, and elaborates on the distinction between C (count) nouns and M (mass) nouns. I think “population” is an “M noun”, and thus “population … less than” is just fine.
    Note that a Google search for “population of less than” yields about 622,000 results, while “population of fewer than” gives only 13,700 results. It could be that all those pages are incorrectly using “less than”, but such a huge disparity ought to give pause for thought!

  • Eric Lee

    Well done, Nick. I concede.

  • Roger Darlington

    I love it: a British guy currently over in America in dialogue with an American living in Britain over the proper use of the English language. This Interweb thingy is great fun.


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