60-second fix: discount on or discount off?

two light bulbs against a black background, one turned on and one turned offIf you’re feeling generous and you’re offering money off something, is that a discount on or a discount off the usual price?

This was recently the subject of much heated debate here at Emphasis HQ.

Sides were taken, teeth bared and battle lines drawn, with both sides certain they were right.

‘Of course it’s “discount off“!’ said Team Off. ‘When you give a discount, it means taking money off.’

This is undeniably true.

‘But the word “discount” means “a deduction from the full amount”,’ fumed Team On. ‘The “off” is built in to the word.’

This caused a temporary ceasefire. There were murmurings in the Off camp.

After all, just as you wouldn’t say ‘a reduction off prices’, so ‘discount off’ starts to look a lot like saying the same thing twice (tautology).

Finally, we hit upon the ultimate way to break the deadlock: comparing each term’s usage using Google Ngram, which shows how often words or phrases have appeared in a large selection of books. The results were pretty conclusive:


Graph showing 'discount on' having more usage

The final ruling was in: while you can refer to offering ’10 per cent off’, it should always be a ’10 per cent discount on‘.

And so all hostilities ceased, with one side graciously conceding (and the other refraining from saying ‘Told you so’).

Image credit: Jag_cz / Shutterstock

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