Thursday, 23 April 2009

still more unetymological plurals

I've mentioned virus and octopus. Memiyawanzi noted that syllabus is derived from Greek σιττύβας (sittubas), accusative plural of σιττύβα (sittuba) "parchment label", so etymologically syllabus is already plural.

Another weird one is bus, which is a shortening of omnibus, which is the Latin dative plural of omnis "all". It is sometimes pluralized as omnibi, apparently humorously.

apparatus and status are borrowed from the Latin fourth declension masculine nouns apparātus and status, so the Latin plurals are apparātūs and statūs.

agenda, erotica, opera, data, media, bacteria, candelabra, paraphernalia, trivia, graffiti are all borrowed from Latin plurals (Italian in the case of graffiti), so English plurals like agendas and operas are unetymological, as is treating these words as singular nouns.

And so on. The point is of course that if we insist on pluralizing words according to how they are pluralized in their original language, we run into all kinds of problems - not the least of which is that we shouldn't have to know the morphology of another language in order to use our native language. I take the sensible view that if it's an English word, pluralize it like English - that is, with (e)s.

5 comments :

Paul Clapham said...

When you run into somebody who insists on the etymological plural, remind them that "anorak" comes from the Inuktitut language and that therefore its plural is "anorait".

I expect this would work better when applied to British people.

Nick said...

This one is for you when you said "if he have" construction is no English you had ever heard. I added this one as an example on my blog.

"If he do bleed, / I'll gild the faces of the grooms withal, for it must seem their guilt." (Act 2, Scene 2, Lines 71-72)

"he do"

Nick said...

That's Macbeth by the way.

goofy said...

What I said was it wasn't part of my English. But it seems to be still present in very formal English:
http://www.bartleby.com/68/30/3230.html

nnyhav said...

I like taking it in the other direction, the way Shelley Berman did in a digression on plurals:
yoyo/yoyi
blouse/blice
goof/geef
sheriff/sheriffim
kleenex/kleenices

Just my kibitzim ...