Wordsmith.org: the magic of words

Wordsmith Talk

About Us | What's New | Search | Site Map | Contact Us  

Previous Thread
Next Thread
Print Thread
Page 1 of 2 1 2
#191510 - 06/11/10 05:53 PM Words that appear plural (or singular) but aren't  
Joined: Jun 2010
Posts: 1
pianoman Offline
stranger
pianoman  Offline
stranger

Joined: Jun 2010
Posts: 1
Words that appear plural but aren't:
Species. Many scientists have started referring to a "specie", in an incorrect attempt to avoid using the plural. But "species" is a Latin 5th-declension noun. In the 5th declension, both the singular and plural end in -es.

Words that appear singular but aren't:
1. Apparatus. Some scientists find "apparatuses" too awkward, so they try to form the plural as "apparati". But there are two types of Latin nouns ending in -us. Second declension nouns form the plural by changing -us to -i. But for fourth declension nouns the singular and plural are the same -- both end in -us. Generally -us nouns that originate as participles ("apparatus" means "prepared") are fourth declension nouns. So according to Latin rules, the plural of "apparatus" is "apparatus".

2. Data (plural of datum). The data ARE (not is) consistent....

3. Lots of Italian words related to food:
zucchini (singular zucchina)
broccoli (singular broccolo)
raviolo
spaghetto
etc etc

#191511 - 06/11/10 06:18 PM Re: Words that appear plural (or singular) but aren't [Re: pianoman]  
Joined: Aug 2005
Posts: 3,290
zmjezhd Offline
Carpal Tunnel
zmjezhd  Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Joined: Aug 2005
Posts: 3,290
R'lyeh
Related to this are the faux Latinate plurals for opus, as *opii and virus as *virii. The real Latin plurals are opera and ... there is no plural for virus.


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
#191514 - 06/11/10 11:31 PM Re: Words that appear plural (or singular) but aren't [Re: zmjezhd]  
Joined: Feb 2010
Posts: 655
beck123 Offline
addict
beck123  Offline
addict

Joined: Feb 2010
Posts: 655
Florida, USA
And let's not forget graffiti and the camp "campi" as the plural of campus.

My question is, Once these words enter English, how obligated are we to follow the original language in pluralization - or, for that matter, any aspect of their use, including their original meaning? We agreed among ourselves centuries ago to communicate in a language not burdened with fourth declensions and such, so why are we occasionally fixated with these in Modern English?

Tangentially: Biological taxonomic names at the genus level and below are considered Latin words and are (well, should be) treated as such; above the genus level, they are treated as English words (or the vulgate of any country) and, despite their clear Latin and Greek origins, there is no non-Ehglish grammatical structure applied to them.


"I don't know which is worse: ignorance or apathy. And, frankly, I don't care." - Anonymous
#191516 - 06/12/10 12:17 AM Re: Words that appear plural (or singular) but aren't [Re: beck123]  
Joined: Jan 2008
Posts: 132
goofy Offline
member
goofy  Offline
member

Joined: Jan 2008
Posts: 132
Originally Posted By: beck123
My question is, Once these words enter English, how obligated are we to follow the original language in pluralization - or, for that matter, any aspect of their use, including their original meaning?


Good question. I guess we're as obligated as we want to be... for instance the usual plural of forum is forums and not fora, and data is often used as a singular mass noun. zucchini, broccoli, spaghetti are often used with singular verbs. very was borrowed from a French word meaning "true".

There are a lot of words that are plural in their original languages but that are uncontroversially singular in English: agenda, erotica, opera, candelabra, paraphernalia, trivia, graffiti, candelabra, stamina.

The belief that we must look to another language to discover how to use English words is known as the etymological fallacy.

Last edited by goofy; 06/12/10 12:20 AM.
#191520 - 06/12/10 05:35 AM Re: Words that appear plural (or singular) but aren't [Re: beck123]  
Joined: Aug 2005
Posts: 3,290
zmjezhd Offline
Carpal Tunnel
zmjezhd  Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Joined: Aug 2005
Posts: 3,290
R'lyeh
My question is, Once these words enter English, how obligated are we to follow the original language in pluralization - or, for that matter, any aspect of their use, including their original meaning? We agreed among ourselves centuries ago to communicate in a language not burdened with fourth declensions and such, so why are we occasionally fixated with these in Modern English?

Not at all. I just find it funny that somebody would say virii instead of the much simpler and regular viruses. Same with octopuses, instead of the Graeco-Latinate octopodes. Or the exquisite ignorami for ignoramuses. The later is actually not even a noun in Latin, but a 1st person plural verb.



Ceci n'est pas un seing.
#191521 - 06/12/10 06:09 AM Re: Words that appear plural (or singular) but aren't [Re: goofy]  
Joined: Oct 2005
Posts: 5
Chuckledore Offline
stranger
Chuckledore  Offline
stranger

Joined: Oct 2005
Posts: 5
Oakland, CA; USA
I'm mostly with Goofy on this point, except that the sense of "obligation" rubs me a bit wrong: the question is (as it almost always should be), "What communicates smoothly and gets across the speaker's ideas - rather than draws attention to the
speaker's choice of strange and awkward words." Of course, we who come daily to "A.Word.A.Day" delight in messing with weird words (singular OR plural); our more
normal friends consider us "word weirdos", and we live with that. In this regard, I found taxis, congeries, shambles and kudos worth attention and study . . . but you want WEIRD? "STARETS" is a damned WEIRD RINGER and should NOT have been in this list! First, I don't see it in any modern English dictionary (yet it is in the now old Merriam Webster's 3rd Unabridged), nor is it in my Apple Dictionary (from the "Dock" at the side of my MacPro's screen, though it IS in Wikipedia (where it should be, but Wiki is not a dictionary). In Russian, the word is "старец" and means "elder". Note that last letter "ц": it is sounded like the "-ts" in "cats" and when transliterated makes "starets" looks as if the original word ends in "s", and will fool an innocent into supposing it might be a plural. There is not even the sound of "s" in the original, and the word is therefore a RINGER. But worst of all, who has even heard of this silly word? Test: see if you have even 1 friend who knows it! Then, to cap the absurdity, we're supposed to know that the proper plural is "startsy": the absurdity progresses, because only those of us who have studied the Russian language will know how to form that plural. This word is worth attention in Russian, because "elders" enjoy a status over there which elders here absolutely do NOT enjoy...another reason that "starets" is a ringer, a weirdly-ringing ringer. Beck123 is obviously a conscientious person and wants to use proper plurals; will we find anyone who will teach Beck that it's "startsy"?


Chuckledore (technically a "stranger", but while I'm strange, I don't
really feel like a stranger here. . .)
#191522 - 06/12/10 10:52 AM Re: Words that appear plural (or singular) but aren't [Re: Chuckledore]  
Joined: Dec 2000
Posts: 13,803
Faldage Offline
Carpal Tunnel
Faldage  Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Joined: Dec 2000
Posts: 13,803
Originally Posted By: Chuckledore
I'm mostly with Goofy on this point

Generally a good move in matters linguistic.

Originally Posted By: Chuckledore
First, I don't see it in any modern English dictionary

You might could wanna get you a better modern English dictionary. It's in AHD4.

Originally Posted By: Chuckledore
Beck123 is obviously a conscientious person and wants to use proper plurals; will we find anyone who will teach Beck that it's "startsy"?

Not around here you won't. Not in English, anyway.

Meanwhile, welcome to the mad house.

#191523 - 06/12/10 12:50 PM Re: Words that appear plural (or singular) but aren't [Re: Faldage]  
Joined: Aug 2005
Posts: 3,290
zmjezhd Offline
Carpal Tunnel
zmjezhd  Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Joined: Aug 2005
Posts: 3,290
R'lyeh
It's in AHD4.

It's also in the OED2 (online). It's also in Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary 4th (link). See Outlook's output (link). Goodness, it's even in Encarta. Basicially it's in every dictionary I use, except the last mentioned herein above.

But worst of all, who has even heard of this silly word?

Uh, I have. So, I've read a lot of Russian history. The first citation in the OED2 is from 1923. Long enough to be brought into the English family of words, word or otherwise. Another great word from Russian (although it ultimately comes from Latin) is intelligentsia. It's been in English slightly longer than starets, by a decade or two, that its pronunciation has changed from a hard g (/g/) as in the Russian to a soft one (/ʤ/) as is usually the case before an e.


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
#191527 - 06/13/10 05:05 AM Re: Words that appear plural (or singular) but aren't [Re: zmjezhd]  
Joined: Oct 2005
Posts: 5
Chuckledore Offline
stranger
Chuckledore  Offline
stranger

Joined: Oct 2005
Posts: 5
Oakland, CA; USA
I'm intrigued by the variety of responses to my ringer-spiel about "starets"!
1. From CarpalTunnel Faldage: "Welcome to the mad house." Thank you for that!
2. From Journeyman Goofy: "The belief that we must look to another language to     discover how to use English words is known as the etymological fallacy." Now
that helps me see in better proportion why "starets" is a ringer: no matter how     many CarpalTunnel types like zmjezhd have found that word while reading     Russian History, or how many of their dictionaries may show that word, starets     to ME remains a ringer because I don't believe people can use it.  If you work it     into a conversation, a listener will say, "Star-WHAT?", and you've lost him.
3. From Enthusiast Beck123: "We agreed among ourselves centuries ago to     communicate in a language not burdened with ... declensions and such, so     why are we occasionally fixated with these in Modern English?" EXACTLY the     right question, and posed more eloquently than my ranting about RINGERS.
4. From Stranger Chuckledore: Of course zmjezhd is right that STARETS appears     in archival tomes like the OED, and I misspoke when I put to CarpalTunnel     types the question, "WHO has even heard of this silly word?"... I should have
    asked, "WHO of you has ever USED this word?" You'll excuse me; I should     have told you where I'm coming from! HINT: I just counted the number of     Russian dictionaries on the wall to the right of my MacPro: there are 68. I am
an interpreter/translator (E-R and R-E). In my work, I focus on IDEAS, not
words (in interpreting one has no time for words: you hear and see pictures     and ideas: one paragraph is one idea). You REJECT words that your     experience says will be trouble-makers: If I hear "starets" in Russian, I'll likely     render it as "spiritual advisor", though it'll depend on context..... but I     CERTAINLY won't come up with the supposedly English word "starets" because     it's a damned ringer and I'll get glared at. Interpreters are supposed to be     essentially invisible; we may never ever attract attention to ourselves: we must     remain demure and shy, inconspicuously filtering out RINGERS while rushing     to finish the paragraph . . . and avoid getting glared at. Thus I will predictably
    get into more and more trouble with CarpalTunnel types, assuming I do not
first get ejected from this company for myself being too much of a ringer . . .


Chuckledore (technically a "stranger", but while I'm strange, I don't
really feel like a stranger here. . .)
#191528 - 06/13/10 12:29 PM Re: Words that appear plural (or singular) but aren't [Re: Chuckledore]  
Joined: Feb 2010
Posts: 655
beck123 Offline
addict
beck123  Offline
addict

Joined: Feb 2010
Posts: 655
Florida, USA
I'd like to bring this back to the original question: words that appear plural but aren't. The word "trousers" and all words related to nethergarb are inevitably written in the plural, yet each is clearly one article of clothing. I know - there are two pant legs. Well, blouses and jackets have two sleeves (a perfect analogy both sartorially and in the underlying biology) but are not referred to in the plural. Pants, pantalones, shorts, undies, tightie-whities, briefs, boxers, etc. Why?

And then there are the utensils that have two parts, yet are demonstrably one item: pliers, clippers, shears, tweezers, scissors, etc.

For many of these, in both classes, the duality is accentuated by referring to a single item as a "pair." A pair of compasses? I've always found that unusual.


"I don't know which is worse: ignorance or apathy. And, frankly, I don't care." - Anonymous
Page 1 of 2 1 2

Moderated by  Jackie 

Forum Statistics
Forums16
Topics13,879
Posts224,115
Members9,030
Most Online3,341
Dec 9th, 2011
Newest Members
santo, piostylist, prgill, thefoeller, Ajubdeen
9030 Registered Users
Who's Online Now
0 registered members (), 45 guests, and 2 spiders.
Key: Admin, Global Mod, Mod
Top Posters(30 Days)
Top Posters(All Time)
wwh 13,858
Faldage 13,803
Jackie 11,613
tsuwm 10,538
LukeJavan8 9,036
AnnaStrophic 6,511
Wordwind 6,296
of troy 5,400
Disclaimer: Wordsmith.org is not responsible for views expressed on this site. Use of this forum is at your own risk and liability - you agree to hold Wordsmith.org and its associates harmless as a condition of using it.

Home | Today's Word | Yesterday's Word | Subscribe | FAQ | Archives | Search | Feedback
Wordsmith Talk | Wordsmith Chat

© 1994-2017 Wordsmith

Powered by UBB.threads™ PHP Forum Software 7.6.0
Page Time: 0.014s Queries: 15 (0.003s) Memory: 2.7343 MB (Peak: 2.8769 MB) Zlib disabled. Server Time: 2017-11-19 10:32:02 UTC