Using Ice Cream To Understand Usage Debates:

I've found my invaluable Webster's Dictionary of English Usage (1989) — if you love discussing English usage questions, you must get this — and found this lovely excerpt:

As for ice-cream, there is no such thing, as ice-cream would be the product of frozen cream, i.e., cream made from ice by melting. What is called ice-cream is cream iced; hence, properly, iced cream and not ice-cream.

It's a quote from an 1881 book by Alfred Ayres, and it's quite serious. Are you moved by it? Are you ready to condemn "ice cream" as wrong, wrong, wrong, because it's illogical and English usage that's illogical is therefore an error?

I doubt it, even if you're a sworn foe of "ten times lower." Yet if you're reconciled to "ice cream," and would today find the more logical "iced cream" to be too affected and puzzling to use, consider the point Webster's uses the Ayres quote to make: "It is sometimes instructive to take a look at the usage issues of the past, so that we may be chastened and not so easily carried away by those of the present."

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Webster's, unlike the other usage books I have on my shelf, also speaks to "times less." It points to several commentators who have criticized "times more" and "times less" (which answers my question about whether there were such commentators — there are), but I think responds to them quite soundly. Here are some excerpts (paragraph break added):

The essence of [the critics'] argument is that since times has to do with multiplication it should only be used in comparing the greater to the smaller (as in "ten times as many" ...).... So goes the argument. It has, undoubtedly, a certain mathematical logic to it ....

[But] mathematics and language are two different things .... The question to be asked concerning such a construction as ten times less is not whether it makes sense mathematically, but whether it makes sense linguistically — that is, whether people understand what it means. The answer to that question is obviously yes. Times has now been used in such constructions for about 300 years [citing, among other sources, Gladstone], and there is no evidence to suggest that it has ever been misunderstood.

Webster's also defends "times more" (paragraph break added):

The [entirely different] argument [as to times more] is that times more ... is ambiguous, so that "He has five times more money than you" can be misunderstood as meaning "He has six times as much money as you."

It is, in fact, possible to misunderstand times more in this way, but it takes a good deal of effort.... The commentators regard this as a serious ambiguity, [but h]ere again, it seems that they are paying homage to mathematics at the expense of language. The fact is that "five times more" and "five times as much" are idiomatic phrases which have — and are understood to have — exactly the same meaning. The "ambiguity" of times more is imaginary: in the world of actual speech and writing, the meaning of times more is clear and unequivocal. It is an idom that has existed in our language for more than four centuries [citing examples] ....