5 Ways You’ve Been Pluralizing All Wrong

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Trivial Diversions

5 Ways You’ve Been Pluralizing All Wrong

5 Ways You’ve Been Pluralizing All Wrong

English is the world’s favorite mish-mash language, which means that we’ve got words drawn from all

kinds of backgrounds. While most linguists agree that as long as you make yourself understood, you’re

speaking correctly, here are five examples of English words that do unexpected things when you try to

add an s to the end.

1. Cul-De-Sac, Attorney General, and other compound words

Sure, few of us use these phrases too often, and when we do we rarely have to talk about more

than one, but did you know that the plural of cul-de-sac is culs-de-sac, or that when you want to

refer to a variety of those attorneys you use Attorneys General? When pluralizing the open form

(written with a space between the words) of a compound word, it is technically correct to add

an s to the noun instead of the adjective.

2. Criterion, focus, and other words with Latin origins

Most of us know some of the words that have weird plurals: cactus goes to cacti. But since Latin

has more than one way to make a plural, we get things like criterion to criteria, focus to foci, and

quantum to quanta. Guess we’ll all have to take some introductory Latin.

3. Octopus and platypus, the psych-outs.

So you read #2 and now you’re ready to bust out octopi at a moment’s notice to show your

party guests how smart you are. Unfortunately, neither of these words comes from Latin.

They’re actually Greek in origin (-pus meaning foot), so if you want to get pedantic about your

plurals you’d end up with octopodes and platypodes. Of course most people just use octopuses.

4. Graffito or “graffiti is a plural?”

Yes, you read that right folks. You’ve probably never thought about the plural of graffiti, and it’s

a good thing too because your brain might explode a little bit when you realize that it is the

plural. The singular, graffito, is an Italian word that means “little scratches”.

5. There is no plural

Pants, jewelry, baggage. What do these things have in common? No plural. Most words that

don’t have a plural form are uncountable or mass nouns, meaning they refer to an indivisible

mass of stuff. A great example of this is often liquids, like water or milk, which can’t be divided

into individual milks and waters. Most of us know this instinctually, but now you can impress

your family and friends with your newfound knowledge of mass nouns.

Related topics language, Plural, Spelling, words
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