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Feb 20, 2012
This week's theme
Words that were formed as a plural but are now used as singular

This week's words
truce
graffiti
insignia
viscera
paraphernalia

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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

The word agenda is a plural form, but only a most die-hard literalist would insist on using agendum when talking about a single item to discuss. The word has lost all hints of its once plural life and now goes proudly solo. If you have many lists of things to do or discuss, you have agendas. At any rate, if you have that much to do, all this would be the least of your concerns.

There are many everyday words in English that we use as singular, oblivious of their etymology: opera (plural of opus), stamina (plural of stamen: fiber), magazine (plural of Arabic makhzan: storehouse, used figuratively as "storehouse of information" for books, and later for periodicals).

This week we'll look at five words that are formed as a plural but are now used as a singular.

truce

PRONUNCIATION:
(troos)

MEANING:
noun:
1. A suspension of hostilities by mutual agreement; armistice; cease-fire.
2. A temporary respite from something unpleasant.

ETYMOLOGY:
Respelling of trewes, plural of Middle English trewe (agreement, pledge), from Old English treow (belief, trust). Ultimately from the Indo-European root deru-/dreu- (to be firm), which is also the source of truth, trust, betroth, tree, endure, and druid. Earliest documented use: around 1330.

USAGE:
"The government has instigated a policy of peace talks and truces, although a number of rebel groups remain in conflict."
Hundreds of India Separatists Lay Down Arms; BBC News (London, UK); Jan 24, 2012.

See more usage examples of truce in Vocabulary.com's dictionary.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people. -John F. Kennedy, 35th US president (1917-1963)

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