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Fora vs Forums

According to the Oxford English Dictionary...

forum n. (pl. forums) 1) a meeting or medium for an exchange of views. 2) (pl. fora) (in an ancient Roman city) a public square or marketplace used for judicial and other business. Origin ME: from Latin, lit. what is out of doors.

But everywhere else I’ve looked, it seems that forums and fora are interchangable. I personally prefer to use the word forums, when referring to a group of workshops and meetings.

I want to argue for this at my work because the term fora is being used and I want to know if there’s more evidence that I’m actually correct, besides what the Oxford English Dictionary tells me.

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In Latin, forum is a neuter noun; in its plural form, it is correct to say fora. The same reasoning applies to the word "memorandum"; in Latin, the plural is memoranda. (A less similar examle: populus - (pl) populi). My guess is that over time, as the general population became less concerned with Latin (it being a dead language), they started to make the word plural by adding the familiar "S". The word "forums" would make any Latin scholar cringe. On the other hand, dictionaries are amended to include slang or new words. I think there's basis for using both, but having taken Latin classes, I'll probably stick to using "fora".

jenn February 24, 2006, 1:32pm

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Since hardly anyone actually uses "fora" as the plural of "forum", I tend to regard it as a bit pretentious when it gets thrown into a conversation.

"Forums" is fine - we're modern English folk, not ancient Romans. :¬)

dave February 24, 2006, 3:51pm

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The fact is, forum is a word taken directly from the latin and so should follow the same rules. We dont say "he is savoir fairical" now do we? That is because it is a french saying and that sounds completely wrong. For anyone who takes Latin, like Jenn obviously does (yay, someone else who is a Latin scholar and knows what they are talking about :D) we know all of what Jenn said. Because it is a Latin word, and hasn't been changed one iota (apart from lazy people when using the plural which is what we are arguing) we should follow the latin declensions. It is like saying octopusses instead of octopi (pronounced oct o pie) the latter being correct.

What is missing from "latin is the fut e"?
YOU ARE!

DamonTarlaei March 3, 2006, 7:17pm

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You have to be a little careful there. "Schnapps" is a word taken directly from the German, but an English speaker who used "Schnappsen" to refer to multiple kinds of schnapps would be...overdoing it. Once words are imported into a language, it *is* natural for them to *start* to lose their original grammatical patterns and pick up the ones of their new homes.

Words like "forum" are currently in the process; I'd say both "forums" and "fora" are correct, and I believe most dictionaries would back me up on that.

Avrom March 4, 2006, 9:04pm

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Jenn said: "In Latin, forum is a neuter noun; in its plural form, it is correct to say fora."

I fully agree with Jenn but I remark that the word forum is today an English word as well. I'm a Latin teacher but I think I'd be committing an act of ultimate snobbery if I decided to use fora before -let's say- a PTA audience.

pascal70 March 6, 2006, 2:27pm

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Damon Tarlaei, I used to take your position on this, but I think Avrom makes a valid point about "schnapps/schnappsen." Besides, the word "forum" has changed a great deal since entering the English language.The word's meaning has changed, first of all. The Romans never meant "internet discussion board" when they said "forum." The word has changed phonetically as well. While I don't know how the Romans actually pronounced spoken Latin (I'm going to speculate that the rolled their r's?), I think it is not an unsafe assumption that English speakers today who use the word "forum" are not pronouncing it exactly as Romans did 2,000 years ago.

What is my point? My point is that languages borrow words from each other and then apply their own rules to those lexial items. If you must insist on "fora" instead of "forums" just make sure you never say "cherubims" instead of "cherubim," a word borrowed by English from Hebrew. Cherubim is already plural, as the singular is "chruv."

AO March 10, 2006, 2:05pm

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Your question is interesting and I think that the explanation of applying English (vs. Latin) rules of pluralization is a sign that languages evolve naturally and are governed by popular daily usage, as opposed to an "authority" who arbitrarily deems a word to be correct or incorrect. Still, as a teacher who sits through numerous curriculum-based meetings, I find that the term "curriculums" sounds at best lazy and at worst uneducated. To me "curricula" sounds proper for everyday usage. Am I alone here?

paul March 12, 2006, 1:20pm

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Words borrowed from other languages are almost always fit into the grammatical structure of the borrowing language. This makes a whole lot of sense, really, especially with English -- do we really want as many ways of forming plurals and genitives as would come with each new language?
The exceptions tend to be very technical words, or when words are used by people who want to look educated. Anyone who thinks that the plural of "forum" should be "fora" should be condemned to use "agenda" as a plural.
And by the way, the plural of "octopus" shouldn't be "octypi." That comes from a misanalysis of the word as Latin. It's actually Greek, so if you want to get picky, the plural should be "octopodes."

David Fickett-Wilbar April 15, 2006, 11:37pm

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David Fickett-Wilbar, you just made me really happy because people ALWAYS correct each other, saying that it should be octopi and not octopuses. From now on I am only going to say octopodes because I think that sounds awesome.

A O April 16, 2006, 1:19pm

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The same applies to Stadia and Stadiums. In non North American English speaking countries sports commentators will refer to the many "stadia" being used at the world cup.

Red May 24, 2006, 11:13am

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I'll agree with most above - I feel that both "fora" and "forums" are "correct" and essentially interchangeable.

Personally, I prefer "fora" but will opt to use "forums" for most "audiences", so as not to come off as overly pretentious or condescending - and above all, to be understood (that is the primary purpose of language !), as most people these days know little of Latin.

Of the parallel example given, "Schnappsen" - well, while I was growing up my family moved around a bit, including a couple European countries, some of that time I attended "international" schools; so, I would actually be inclined to use that pluralization, because it "feels right" to me, a fair number of those I might be likely to use the word with would understand (as well as perhaps choose the same as themselves), and it's also not so likely to be misunderstood by those who don't know German. However, there are also languages I am not so familiar with, so for any words "borrowed" from them I would certainly tend towards "Anglicized pluralizations".

Of the case presented of words changing once "imported" to a language - I would further point out that any "living" language is a fluid thing, and so the same holds for "native" words evolving as well; thus, there are few eternal and unchanging absolutes (as in most of life). It's an interesting sort of "informal democracy" in action, where evolutionary genetics are a rather fitting metaphor - selection, crossover, mutation.

Finally - thank you to Mr. Fickett-Wilbar for "octopodes" - an error I'll admit to having made previously, though hopefully will not again ; )

Jake L June 28, 2006, 8:42am

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The real question isn't how WE should pluralize "octopus", but how the ROMANS pluralized the word they'd borrowed into their language from Greek! Maybe the correct (Latin) plural really is "octopi"?

I prefer octopusses anyway, because it rhymes with meese and foxen.

Joachim June 28, 2006, 10:45pm

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Joachim - interesting point to consider, the fuller lineage of a word.

Also (and risking going further off-topic, but I can't resist ; ) - of your preference for pluralizing animals with rhymes in mind - I can't help but think of Ogden Nash...


_the_Octopus_

Tell me, O Octopus, I begs,
Is those things arms, or is they legs?
I marvel at thee, Octopus;
If I were thou, I'd call me Us.

[which might be amended with :]
And were We Us, then would I
Be Octopuses, Octopodes or Octopi ?


(Apologies to Mr. Nash for taking liberties with his already fine poem - it's an homage, really ! - and to everybody else for my liberties taken with meter, grammar and this topic - but it was begging to be done ; )

A bit more on-topic though... finally pulling out my dictionary to review its wisdom on this sub-topic - I see that "octopod" actually refers to an entire order of "cephalopod mollusks" (including "the octopuses"), whereas "octopus" refers to the specific genus (with a note "broadly [in italics] : any octopod excepting the paper nautilus"). So, it seems we were perhaps premature in our enjoyment of "octopodes", which actually carries much ambiguity.

Jake L June 29, 2006, 12:20am

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Through a process known as assimilation, words that were once considered "borrowed" from another language eventually become part of the standard lexicon and may conform to the mechanics of the new language. As Avrom pointed out, many words are in process and can probably go either way. There are no hard-and-fast rules, but here's my taxonomy:

1. Words like forum, stadium and auditorium would be considered throughly assimilated and can be pluralized with "s" even in formal register.
2. Other Latin neuters that are not so fully assimilated and those used in scientific contexts require the Latin pluralization even in informal register: datum, bacterium, agendum (pluralization with "s" would be considered flat-out incorrect).
3. In between are some Latin neuter words that might go one way in informal register and the other way for formal register: aquarium, curriculum, medium.

Bismarck June 29, 2006, 3:58pm

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I'm sure that there may be some pedants who will disagree with me, but agenda in modern English usage has become a singular noun referring to the list itself. Its plural is agendas. "Data" is teetering on the edge.

porsche June 29, 2006, 5:12pm

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I would agree, but the illustration here is that the anglicized plural forms "agendums" and "datums" could never be justified in the way that "forums" and "stadiums" could, this despite them all being Latin neuters of the same declension. The principle is rather arbitrary and defies sensible codification.

Bismarck June 29, 2006, 7:48pm

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Just to be different & waste a little more time:
When a colleague produced 'fora' as the plural of 'forum' I took exception to it and looked it up in the little dictionary that I saved from my long ago school days - Cassell's Latin-English English-Latin School Dictiionary, first published in 1927 and abridged from Cassell's Latin Dictionary- which gives 'forum -i'(pl), a neuter noun - similarly, 'castellum -i(pl)', neuter.
Do I have to defer to all the higher authorities quoted above, forget the Latin I once trusted and just settle for 'forums' or 'fora'?
Yours in a dither

Joan Rowlands July 4, 2006, 5:36am

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The plural in Latin of forum is not fori. Fori is the singular genitive. The nominative (and accusative) plural of forum is indeed fora.

For nouns, Latin dictionaries usually give the nominative and genitive singulars, so that students will know what declension the noun is in.

Fori identifies forum as being a noun of the second declension. This affects the way the other cases are formed. But nearly all neuter nouns, of all declensions, take the "a" as the ending in the nominative/accusative plural.

FlapJack July 4, 2006, 12:38pm

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I thought I'd point out that "Cherubim" is used as a plural in English already--I've never heard of an instance where "cherubims" was (incorrectly) used. The singular is cherub, however, and I have heard "cherubs" used incorrectly many times (it should be cherubim).

JennChick July 18, 2006, 2:34pm

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>
>...and I have heard "cherubs" used incorrectly many
>times (it should be cherubim).
>

What do you mean, Jennchick? "Cherubs" is also an accepted pluralization of "cherub", at least according to all my dictionaries.

porsche July 19, 2006, 3:46pm

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There seems to be an overwhelming problem where the Latin rules are applied to some words but not others. Fora and Media being two examples.

Forums is considered the norm among most of the English-speaking public, no matter how awful it sounds. Whereas media is considered the norm; you would be frowned upon if you used mediums.

I understand the argument where the Latin rule no longer applies as it has been asimilated into our language, but let's face it, the Latin plural sounds much better.

When these words were assimilated the rule for their plurals were assimilated too. Why can't we formally accept that this Latin rule now exists in modern English too as well as way back when?

I always choose to use the Latin plural in speech. Occasionally I do choose to use the word forums with people because I know they will not know what I am saying otherwise. Each time I do I feel a small part of me die inside. It's not snobbery, I am not a Latin or English scholar, it's just a better way of doing things. I know language evolves but it should not be open to bastardisation.

David Adams February 21, 2007, 4:31am

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And the words "chum", "hum", "sum" and "um" should henceforth be pluralized "cha", "ha", "sa" and "a". And since "apparatus" is a Latin fourth declension noun, it should be pluralized accordingly: "apparatūs".

goofy February 21, 2007, 7:52am

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Unlike a few of the earlier commentors who are Latin scholars, I'm a lay person when it come to that particular language. The feeling gushing through my immortal(!) soul is that language is a tool to help us make ourselves understood to the widest audience possible. Therefore, let's apply democracy to the choice of fora vs. forums - whatever works.

Debangshu Kerr March 1, 2007, 12:21am

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I was on my way through this exchange when I ran across octopodes, and it cheered up my day considerably -- I've made the same comment many times. My quibble comes from the pronunciation of the ending "-i", mostly arising out of composing syllabi (-buses) for my classes. It ought to be "ee", as I understand it. The Latin pronunciation for a word ending in "-i" would be pronounced "-ee", not "-ie". To get a pronunciation that rhymes with "pie" one would need to spell it "-ae". So, to summarize, I compose "syllabee"; the plural of alumnus is actually pronounced "alumnee", and the plural of alumna, the female form, is alumnae, prnounced to rhyme with "pie".

steven2 March 5, 2007, 8:25am

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Doesn't all this brujaja boil down to horrendously lasting influence of the medieval English grammarians who, convinced that Latin was the purest language, decided that English could be analyzed according to Latin grammatical paradigms? This is why we use terms like gerund and participle when discussing English grammar, even though in many cases, the two are indistinguishable. It's also why we speak of an English future tense (there is no specific form that expresses this tense; actions carried out in the future are expressed using an auxiliary verb construction).

Now, as we are all aware, languages change, borrow from other languages, etc etc etc. So, that means that English has borrowed more than just words, it has borrowed grammar as well. Still, the insistence of saying "fora" over "forums" seems to me a big hypocracy. Take some of our French borrowings, for example. We started borrowing from French around the Norman conquest and we haven't stopped since. However, words borrowed directly from the Normans became "anglicized" while words borrowed from the slightly different Parisian dialect retained many features of their French pronunciation (like "chaperone"). Are you Latin scholars going to argue that all English words borrowed from French should be pronounced like they're French? Same goes for Latin words; we've got loads of them in English, but the ones to which we apply Latin grammar and the ones to which we apply English grammar seem to be arbitrary (well, not arbitrary, but embedded in the history of borrowing). And in any case, please accept that English is a Germanic language! Romanic rules don't make sense for us English speakers!

AO March 6, 2007, 10:39pm

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Gerunds and participles are quite distinguishable- gerunds are used as nouns, while participles are adjectives. (I assume you're talking about verbals here?) I apologize, I think I may have just mentioned this in another thread as well.

calamitas March 12, 2007, 6:43pm

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Perhaps we reserve "fora" for more than one enclosed, unroofed meeting place and "forums" for more than one purposive small group. I have lately tended to pefer "fomulas" instead of "formulae" - the world moves on.
Greater problem, people who use "one bacteria, two bacteria" or "one criteria, two criteria" - illiterate usage that is a growing infestation.

bbeechey March 28, 2007, 1:23pm

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I think the octopus discussion above is a bit off beam.
For one think, octopus isn't exactly the greek, which is oktápous, so to use octopodes as a plural for octopus can't be right.

I do not believe that "octopus" is properly Latin either, rather it is a latinised word which biologists have come up with. I can't find the original Latin in a Latin dictionary to hand: but given that octopus is polpo (or piovra) in italian, polpe in french and pulpo in spanish, I would tend to think the Latin word must be related to those.

Echinosum April 19, 2007, 8:59am

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My contribution to the octopus discussion (- and here I am quoting only):
"Fowler´s Modern English states that "the only acceptable plural in English is octopuses", and that octopi is misconceived and octopodes pedantic. Octopi derives from the mistaken notion that octopus is a second declension Latin noun, which it is not. Rather, it is (Latinised) Greek, from oktopous, gender masculine, whose plural is oktopodes. If the word were native to Latin, it would be octopes ("eight-foot") and the plural octopedes, analogous to centipedes and millipedes, as the plural form of pes ("foot") is pedes. "

In modern colloquial Greek as far as I know they call it ochtapodi or chtapodi, gender neuter, with the plural form chtapodia

Sorry for being nit-picking but the plural of German "Schnaps" (gender masculine = "der Schnaps") is "(die) Schnäpse".

Quirin April 19, 2007, 10:03am

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Actually one can have a lot of fun with Latin plurals, or for that matter Greek or Hebrew. On "Inside Shelley Berman," a 1959 album, Berman speaks of "One Kleenex, two Kleenices" and "one sheriff, two sheriffim." In the same vein, Latin scholars will recognize that you rent one video, but two videmus, and that if you buy a second Volvo, you are a two-Volvimus family. Also, omnibus and quorum are already plural. Anyone who knows Greek will agree to "one rhinoceros, two rhinoceroi," and "one hippopotamus [slightly misspelled in English], two hippopotamoi." But you go too far if you buy a second Audi and then claim a two-Audite family!

ccerf May 17, 2007, 11:56am

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conclusion: "Latin scholars" need to just calm down and accept that they are "scholars" of a language that has been out of use for centuries and in fact, never really was alive to begin with. Classical Latin is like a Brittney Spears routine: a bunch of "ideal" grammar rules that no one ever actually used. It was the Vulgar Latin that was the true living language of the Romans and that language is in fact different in a lot of ways from this Classical Latin that "Latin scholars" derive so much snootiness from.

AO May 17, 2007, 9:17pm

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Quirin, I truly enjoyed your insightful post, but I hope yo won't mind if I nitpick about something as well. Using your logic, if the word were native to latin, not only should the plural of octopus be octopedes, but the (anglicized?) SINGULAR should be octopede, NOT octope. After all, expanding your own analogy, the singular of centipedes is centipede, not centope. Remember, it is the number of feet that is pluralized, not the actual number of animals (centipede means one aniimal having a hundred feet, not a hundred foot)

porsche May 20, 2007, 4:40am

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We were talking about statistics in a maths lesson and my maths teacher referred to strata as a singular noun. He then proceeded to talk about the different 'stratas' of a sample of the population. Is this correct, because I thought it was meant to be one stratum, many strata?

wiggy September 15, 2007, 5:22am

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Wiggy, you are correct. Stratum is the singular, strata is the plural. Sometimes technical subjects have their own vocabulary, but not in this case. Do note, however, that it's "math lesson" and "math teacher", not "maths lesson" and "maths teacher". You don't want to make the very same mistake as your teacher!

porsche September 15, 2007, 7:57am

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Porsche, maybe Wiggy has learnt from the British, because they do use 'Maths". So, unless you insist it's 'Physic lesson' & 'Physic teacher', Wiggy has learnt well. All hail the Queen of England!

Derek September 16, 2007, 5:04pm

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Also, taliban is plural of talib, but...

Anonymous September 26, 2007, 6:15pm

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Please, people can' even gt the distinction between 'fruit' and 'fruits' right. Let's not get too pedantic or emotional here!

Derek September 28, 2007, 7:32pm

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Actually the plural of "Schnaps" would be "Schnäpse"

Regards
a native german speaker :-)

curious November 10, 2007, 9:16am

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If we're going to throw pronunciation into this debate, may I make a plea for 'detritus'. It is surely not det try tus but det rit us in the same way as dominus (not dom my nus ) or tin it us not ton eye tus. I suspect we have Americans to thank for the horrors of det try tus and tin eye tus.


As to the other stuff - I'd be delighted if we could manage to maintain the Latin plurals - so enriching to our language.
Are we to have criterions or a criteria? Give me stadia and the medium of radio. Let's remember that 'none' is singular (none is, not none are). Yes, let's communicate clearly with one another but can we not preserve the delight of our language's origins?

Finally, to our dear American friends: would you please stop inverting the meaning of inTernational by pronouncing it innernational? Inter - between; inner - inside of. By your mispronunciation you can turn an international airline into a domestic one. And as for innerim - is that part of a bicycle?

caterhamman November 12, 2007, 8:03am

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"none" has been both singular and plural since at least 888 AD. So much for the "language's origins" argument.

John November 12, 2007, 4:55pm

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From Dictionary.com:

"Usage note Since none has the meanings “not one” and “not any,” some insist that it always be treated as a singular and be followed by a singular verb: The rescue party searched for survivors, but none was found. However, none has been used with both singular and plural verbs since the 9th century. When the sense is “not any persons or things” (as in the example above), the plural is more common: … none were found. Only when none is clearly intended to mean “not one” or “not any” is it followed by a singular verb: Of all my articles, none has received more acclaim than my latest one."

A very common usage of 'none' is as a contraction of 'not one', a singular term, yet it is in this usage that we so often hear the plural verb used. Common usage doesn't alter its singularity.

If enough people use ' your right ' to mean ' you're right ' will that convert 'your' into 'you're' ?

Tristan November 29, 2007, 2:39am

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I thoroughly enjoyed reading this thread.
I note, at the top of this page, it says 'Forum for the gray areas of the English language'. Suely you mean 'grey'?
I studied 'maths' at my school and use an S where many of your contributors use a Z, for instance pluralization. I didn't even know that word existed!
Perhaps you should say this forum is for the gray areas of the English (US) language.
I believe a lot of misunderstanding is generated by the use of a certain computer company's 'spell check' facility. Even in English (UK) it seems unable to cope with it's (it is) or it's (belonging to it). When you plumb in regional dialects and slang you really do have a problem with this language.
I only came to this thread as I thought forums was probably incorrect (should it be - were incorrect?). Don't bother to answer that one.
I think I'll go back to my work now or onto some more FORUMS!

Searchguru December 2, 2007, 10:29am

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this is an old, old thread, just discovered it. But as a former Latin scholar I wanted to address Steven's discrepancy between the pronunciation of the "i" ending.

I was taught that in the scholarly latin "i" is pronounced "ee" and in the Church latin it is pronounced "aye". Foots with what I've heard in most latin masses as well. . . and what I experienced in my Jesuit HS classes.

Incidentally, pretentious or not, I use "fora," it's simpler to explain to someone who doesn't know latin than using "forums," and having to answer to fellow latin scholars.

mark.sullivan December 7, 2007, 9:00am

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It's amazing to see that there are still so many people who take pride in a language. English is not my native language, so I cringe when "native" speakers use words so lightly.

Anyway, back to the current topic. MS Word doesn't recognize "fora" as a valid word, even auto-corrects it while I'm typing. So there you have it, Bill Gates has decreed that fora is not the correct plural. End of story.

Swapneel December 14, 2007, 11:39am

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If Microsoft Word were the definitive source of English grammar and vocabulary, we'd have MUCH bigger problems than worrying about the difference between forums and fora!!!

Anonymous December 15, 2007, 8:20am

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Just found this old thread at the top of a Google search for "plural of forum."

Amusingly, another of the results was this page:
http://www.njcl.org/forums/faq.asp

Shouldn't that URL be www.njcl.org/fora/faq.asp? I mean, it *is* the NJCL after all. :-)

Jack

Jack January 5, 2008, 8:12am

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I enjoyed reading this all very much.

My favorite: For anyone who takes Latin, like Jenn obviously does (yay, someone else who is a Latin scholar and knows what they are talking about :D) we know all of what Jenn said.

Talking about? I am talking about ending a sentence with a preposition which a Latin scholar should never do.

But since I am an American on the interwebby. The correct pluralization is clearly: 4umz! :D

~David Pahl

AmmoDump January 14, 2008, 3:37pm

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A long, but most enjoyable, read.

Many years ago I was a simulator instructor for a major international airline, whose training center was located in a midwestern U.S. city. Many of the other instructors came from the surrounding area, had grown up on farms, and had no familiarity with Latin.

Where I'm going with this is that some of our aircraft had several movable pointers on the perimeter of the airspeed indicator that could be set to indicate the varying speeds required for takeoff and landing. We generally referred to them as "bugs", although the proper term was "index markers" or "indices". I was always amused by the fact that, in the lexicon of the hometown instructors, "indices" was singularized to "indice" (in' duh see), as in "Set the 'indice' to 120 knots".

On an entirely different note, something else I find amusing is that, while Americans refer to corporations in the singular (Microsoft was an 800 pound gorilla), our British cousins refer to them in the plural (Microsoft were an 800 pound gorilla). Does anyone happen to know how that came about?

Gray Fox March 12, 2008, 7:08am

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Tristan: "A very common usage of 'none' is as a contraction of 'not one', a singular term, yet it is in this usage that we so often hear the plural verb used. Common usage doesn't alter its singularity."

Tristan, how do you know that "none" is used with a plural verb when it should be singular? Doesn't it make much more sense to assume that it is plural when it is used with a plural verb? You are pretty much ignoring the usage note that you quoted.

Anonymous March 14, 2008, 2:33pm

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"Schnappsen" is cringeworthy as it actually is not the correct German plural. The actual German word is 'Schnaps' (just one 'p'), and the plural would be 'Schnäpse'.

mjt March 22, 2008, 7:28am

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Just realized someone already made my point - previously, the page apparently hadn't loaded fully. :doh:

As for 'fora', it seems to me that the word has been assimilated into the English language sufficiently that using the English plural should, at the very least, be acceptable.

Similarly, in English mathematical writing 'lemmas' is now not only accepted but the norm, and I conform to this usage, even though in German I would always use 'Lemmata'.

mjt March 22, 2008, 7:59am

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It seems ridiculous to me that we should have to conform to the grammatical rules of a long dead language - and that never really existed in such a state anyway- when using words long assimilated into our own language. should we correct Russians who use Ñ?портÑ?менa to mean a female athlete? In Spanish forum has evolved into foro, pl foros. the Spanish no longer use Latin case endings, even for words that remain unchanged from the Latin. it sounds wankerish. Imagine what a tosser one would sound if he or she were to say "the decsion fori" to mean "the forum's decision". Bad enough when the prescriptivists pontificate on English, never mind that we should have to suffer the crowing of two thousand year old grammarians by proxy as well!

leonardo o'higgins April 6, 2008, 12:43pm

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Thanks to all who contributed here. Although I still don't know for sure whether to use "fora" or "forums," reading this thread was much more enjoyable than the writing exercise that prompted me to consult it.

scotto May 1, 2008, 12:17pm

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Two points, in retrospect.

1. It is not as simple as describing a common trajectory of assimilation to the prevailing, base rules, and then placing a word at the start, middle or end of that trajectory. (In this context, start = "fora", middle = "fora" or "forums", and end = "forums". In fact, the way in which a loan word is embedded in the borrowing language varies, and then tends to stabilize: I doubt that we will ever say "bacteriums". One possible reason is the context or timing of the loan: when it occurred and who started the borrowing. So, we should not try to invent rules, but rather we should take part in the process of forming the language by following our preferences and tastes. I like fora because I studied Latin, and I like the sound of it. Until the receiving language has definitively swallowed and digested the loan word, there seems little wrong with looking to the lending language for guidance.

A final thought on this point: fora has a more abstract feel: places or locations of discussion, rather than the plural of internet discussion lists. An analogy might be the use of "program" in British English exclusively for a computer program, and the use of "programme" for other meanings, like a theatre programme or a programme of events, or a political programme.

2. The American singular and the British plural for collective bodies. The original location of this distinction I believe is the way in which a government and its/their actions are described.

"The British government were not inclined to go to war: they felt that the French were seeking to draw the country into a unwarranted and unprofitable adventure, from which little could be gained, and through which much might be lost."

This may be something to do with the principle of Cabinet government, of decisions being made semi-collectively and in debate by a body of people. In this view, the government is a collection of ministers, a plural entity.

The U.S. administration (a term that only recently has been applied to British govenments, incidentally) is perhaps more closely identified with the singular person of the President.

In contemporary British English, I would say that this usage, e.g. "the British government were divided", sometimes has a faintly archaic whiff. Interestingly, "the British Cabinet were divided" is fully in line with current usage. And, yes, it would be normal to speak or write in a London or Edinburgh publication of Microsoft or IBM as "they" not "it".

Alastair June 11, 2008, 5:17am

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Forums or Fora? Does not mater an iotume which you use!

JPK July 28, 2008, 10:14am

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Brill! Wot a great thread. B4 I red this i wuz ignorant of the originz of many of my words. Ive learnt a lot. Ta.

MS October 23, 2008, 1:50am

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The OED has a citation for "forums" from 1647, and no citations at all for "fora". I'm guessing that "fora" is a much later innovation based on someone's love of Latin.

goofy October 23, 2008, 10:14am

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The fact that "forum" was borrowed from another language is irrelevant. "Forum" is an English word. It should follow the general rules of the English language: One forum, two forums.

Greedyheart Fullyton December 20, 2008, 8:10pm

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Hey, if I just start collecting old movie posters, but I only have one so far, does that mean that I have memorabilium? No, that can't be right. It should be memorabilis.

porsche December 21, 2008, 9:19am

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Wow - to think people are employed to belabour all of this - puts me head in a veritable spin

John Butler Train January 5, 2009, 1:28pm

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Dave Rattigan says:

Since hardly anyone actually uses "fora" as the plural of "forum", I tend to regard it as a bit pretentious when it gets thrown into a conversation.

"Forums" is fine - we're modern English folk, not ancient Romans. :¬)


If you're modern fold, then don't use an ancient Roman word.

The singular of data is datum. I never hear anyone say "datas."

andyforlife January 13, 2009, 3:42pm

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And, that should be "folk" not "fold."

andyforlife January 13, 2009, 3:43pm

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Andy, I'm not sure what your point is when you said:

"The singular of data is datum. I never hear anyone say 'datas'."

You don't hear "datas" because data is already plural (although it is often used as a mass noun with some controversy). Did you mean to say:

"The singular of data is datum. I never hear anyone say 'datums'"?

porsche January 15, 2009, 2:01pm

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Sorry, don't understand the comment by David Fickett-Wilbar at all. "Agenda" IS a plural. Sadly, I never have meetings with only one item to discuss so have never had to face the problem of not having many agenda.

t.williams February 9, 2009, 6:59am

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"agenda" is plural in Latin, but it is singular in English.

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/agenda

David February 9, 2009, 1:07pm

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"Forum" has 2 meanings. Firstly it is a meeting or discussion group, secondly it is a meeting place. The plural of the first (i.e. more than one meeting) is "forums"; the plural of the second (i.e. more than one meeting place) is "fora". Therefore you could have the following description of a typical working day: "I participated in 2 forums at 2 seperate fora". Having said that, it would be clearer to say: "I participated in 2 discussions at 2 different venues".

rickdalaglio April 14, 2009, 8:54am

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If they're both in use, then they're both correct - and you interchange them for stylistic purposes.

A passage by David Crystal from 'Words Words Words'; "The choice between alternative noun plurals is a fairly easy one. Is it formulas or formulae? Cactuses or cacti? Referendums or referenda? The regular -s ending is usually the more informal and colloquial. The classical ending is the more technical, learned, or formal. If I am a plant amateur, I will probably say cactuses when I see more than one of them. But if I am a cactus aficionado, I will almost certainly say cacti."

lollilike August 15, 2009, 9:44pm

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For those whom are against the correct use of the English language, you are all idiots. Why would you use an incorrect spelling/form of a word if you know that it is incorrect and you know what the correct spelling/form is. It pisses me off when I hear someone say forums instead of fora (and to make my point even stronger, this word processor has found fora to be spelled incorrectly!). If you are going to speak English speak it properly.

I don't mind the use of acronyms such as LOL or WTF, considering the fact that their sole purpose is to quicken typing speeds.

Other incorrect spellings or usages that give me the sh!ts are: ATM "machines", the incorrect use of "who" and "whom", the incorrect use of pronouns, the incorrect use of punctuation, the use of "pronounciation" instead of "pronunciation", and the list goes on.

If you know the correct spelling/use of a word, then use it! If you don't, then go back to school and learn how to!

It also pisses me off when people tell me I'm wrong for calling a "free kick" in soccer a "penalty"! They tell me "It's not a penalty, it's just a free kick." to which I reply "It is a penalty! The opposition is being 'penalised' by giving the attacking team a free kick!"

That's my 2c.

chrisallen_33 September 3, 2009, 3:10am

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It's very telling, hot4teacher, that one of your pet peeves is the misuse of "who" and "whom", considering that you use "whom" incorrectly in your very first sentence. It's also odd that you're pissed off by people using the word "forums". Are you really claiming that "forums" isn't a standard or "correct" English word? Fora is a Latin plural, correct English, yes, but obscure at best.

porsche September 6, 2009, 8:44pm

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Touche porsche. It is very ironic that I made such a mistake. In my defence, though, it is just that - and I do know the correct use (for those who do not, you would simply use "who" where you might use "he/she", and use "whom" where you might use "him/her")

As for my argument over the use of forums instead of fora...
"Are you really claiming that “forums” isn’t a standard or “correct” English word? Fora is a Latin plural, correct English, yes, but obscure at best."

Yes I am claiming that. Since the word "forum" is a Latin word used in the English language, I do not see how using the English-based plural system would apply. Using "forums" is much like using "octopuses", "radiuses" or, to a lesser extent, "fishes".

chrisallen_33 September 7, 2009, 9:19am

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Merriam-Webster dates the use of "forum" in English to the 15th century. When a word borrowed from another language has been part of English for a long time it is proper to use the "English-based plural system." Thus we say "forums," not "fora," and "stadiums," not "stadia." If you are referring to ancient Roman places, you might be justified in using the Latin plural form. But to refer to places where football is played as "stadia" or to on-line discussion groups–even this one–as "fora" can sound affected. It's not wrong to do so, but it's pedantic to insist on it.

douglas.bryant September 8, 2009, 12:30am

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hot4teacher ..... Please allow me to clarify the issue of Penalty v Free Kick in the game of soccer. The referee does not "penalise" when awarding a free kick as a penalty is something which is imposed, thus implying a loss for the team that is penalised. A free kick, as with a throw-in, ensures that possession of the ball remains with the team who were victims of a technical offence by the other side. A penalty, on the other hand, is a scoring opportunity awarded for a serious or deliberate breach of the rules within a set area of play.

In rugby, a penalty may be awarded anywhere on the field of play and the beneficiaries may score points as a direct result. A team cannot score points as a direct result of a free kick .

In soccer, a penalty kick may only be awarded for an offence committed within the penalty box . The only person who can prevent the penalty-taker from scoring is the defending goalkeeper. A free kick may be awarded anywhere on the field of play. An indirect free kick may be awarded for a technical offence and the kicker may not score directly from that kick. A direct free kick is similar to a penalty but anyone may prevent the ball from reaching the goal.

Basically, a penalty in football is a free shot at goal, within certain parameters, whereas a free kick is exactly that.

The terms are neither the same nor interchangeable within the rules.

uno September 14, 2009, 9:19pm

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Jim, my argument over penalties and free kicks was solely that a free-kick is a way of penalising one team, by offering their opponents a free-kick.

You implied that the term penalty refers to a direct inhibition of one teams chances, but this doesn't really differentiate between penalties and free-kicks. A penalty (or direct as we call them in Aus) is essentially a free kick that gives more of an advantage to the attack, rather than 'taking anything away' from the opposition. The defense is penalised in both cases.

I can't really speak for other countries, but here in Australia, we refer to (what you call) free-kicks as indirect penalties, and (what you call) penalties as direct penalties.

Either way the team is penalised by giving an advantage to their opposition.

P.S. I am familiar with the rules - I played plenty of soccer and rugby.

chrisallen_33 September 14, 2009, 10:59pm

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Hmmm! For someone who sets such store by the english language I'm surprised that the bastardisation of the laws of football should get by you so easily. The rules of soccer (as opposed to the game of kicking a bladder about) were invented at Eton College, England, in 1815 and at no time is the term "indirect penalty" used.

However, I'm not a pedant and you are entitled to refer to the term in any way you choose. That's what living languages are about, are they not ? :-)

PS I bow to your superior rugby national team. I specifically haven't mentioned cricket as I think it's like watching paint dry!

uno September 15, 2009, 12:12am

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I can understand why people disagree with me on this - and, after all, my argument isn't necessarily directed at anyone in particular; and I assume that most people understand where I stand and why.

As for our Rugby team; assuming that you are a Pom, I could have said the same to you.
I have just about given up on Union in Australia (except for the mighty Waratahs). League is where it's at, but cricket is good too (each to his own).

Oh and PS... We use the term free-kick as well as indirect (simply to differentiate between direct and 'not direct').

chrisallen_33 September 15, 2009, 6:05am

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Hot4teacher, I think I have to agree, at least in th abstract. If the only thing a free kick accomplishes is to set the possession of the ball without a direct opportunity to score, then clearlly, the mere possession does increase the probability of future scoring even if only slightly, so calling it a penalty seems reasonable. I suppose the only other consideration is the reason the possession is handed over. If possession is handed over, say, simply out of fairness because the other team just scored, then it wouldn't be a penalty (please don't criticize if this doesn't actually happen. I know squat about sports rules. I know this happens in informal basketball games).

porsche September 15, 2009, 7:58am

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Also, regarding: "Yes I am claiming that. Since the word “forum” is a Latin word used in the English language, I do not see how using the English-based plural system would apply."

Hot4teacher, using the English-based plural system ALWAYS applies. forum is NOT a Latin word used in the English language. It is an ENGLISH word whose origin is Latin. While we're at it, “octopuses”, “radiuses”, and “fishes” are all correct. If you want to be prescriptive about it, using the Latin plural is considererd irregular (not incorrect), and generally only preferred for words of technical origin. Of the words you listed, only "radiuses" is unusual (but still not incorrect). Oh, and I can hardly wait. Just what do you think the plural of "octopus" should be?

porsche September 15, 2009, 8:09am

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Thank you for understanding, Porsche.

"Hot4teacher, using the English-based plural system ALWAYS applies. forum is NOT a Latin word used in the English language. It is an ENGLISH word whose origin is Latin."

If radius is now an English word, does that mean that entrepreneur, feng shui, and umami are now all English words/phrases as well. Where does this rule end?

Oh, and FYI the Cambridge dictionary claims the plural of radius to be radii. If anything, the Cambridge dictionary is essentially a solid copy of the English language, so whatever it claims to be correct should be correct, in spite of what anyone else says. If not then the English language has become somewhat of a tribal series of languages, each based on the one ancestor, but with subtle differences.

There is something very wrong about modifying the English language. We cannot trust what people claim to be correct, other than what is solidly stated and globally confirmed. This free alteration has led to some disgraceful modifications to common language - including the use and apparent conception of the word bouncebackability! There is a word for bouncebackability, it's resilience! If we continue to neglect correct use of our language, we will wind up with a dictionary full of abbreviations and disgracefully simple words.

Anyway, I am getting tired of acting like an old cynic. Speak with whatever language you wish, but be wary of the increasingly poor state and occurrence of the English language.

chrisallen_33 September 15, 2009, 9:22am

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in the english language, foreign words may or may not be anglicized. Thus "forums", but "radii".

ilovejimbowales September 15, 2009, 8:31pm

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I can understand that as time goes by, we will forget where some words originated and so their respective plural system will be forgotten, but until then why would only some words be anglicized? Either all words or only words of English origin should use the plural system.

Again, to what extent does this rule apply? Are we to just guess when a word does or doesn't use this rule?

chrisallen_33 September 15, 2009, 8:58pm

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Hot4teacher asserts: "Either all words or only words of English origin should use the plural system." That's a sweeping statement, and at odds with H4T's previous declaration: "There is something very wrong about modifying the English language."

First, just what is this “plural system?”

Pluralization of nouns in English is a messy business, and always has been. The Middle English “en” plural form has been largely abandoned, but we still have “oxen” and “children.” The plural noun “eyen” became “eyes,” while “namen” became “names.”

Most nouns simply receive an "s" at the end. Those that end in sibilant sounds–or near-sibilant sounds–generally add "es." But a word like “quiz” also acquires another “z,” for no obvious reason.

Nouns ending in an "o" preceded by consonant are made plural with “es,” like “potatoes” and “volcanoes,” unless they don’t, like “pianos” and “porticos.”

A noun ending in a “y” after a consonant drops the “y” and adds “ies,” as in “ferries.” Unless, of course, it’s a proper name, as in “the Ferrys.”

Some nouns ending in “f” drop the “f” and add “ves,” as in “knives” and “wolves.” Others, like "cliff" and "serf" merely acquire an “s.”

Nouns ending in in “is” keep the final “s” but swap the preceding i” for an “e,” as in “crises” and “oases.”

And then there are words like “deer” where the plural and singular forms are the same.

Some system! Shall we modify it to something sensible? Or would that be “very wrong?”

douglas.bryant September 16, 2009, 12:06pm

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First off, Douglas, this is a discussion board - and we can do without the individually aimed smart-arse sarcasm. I'm here to put forward my opinion, not to be ridiculed.

I understand that the plural system has changed in the advancement of the English language, and had I been around at the time of these changes I probably would have disagreed.

"Some system! Shall we modify it to something sensible? Or would that be “very wrong?”"
It is a reasonably complex system, but students are taught English all of the way through school, up until Uni, in which time the we become able to use the system almost subconsciously. Modifying the system would be wrong, because it would give us reason to modify the entire language so as to make every word easy to spell, probably followed by simplifying the grammatical rules and punctuation, until we end up with a language system not unlike binary code.

If we are do not use the 'original' English language correctly, then why should we use it at all? Why should we have to spell things correctly? Why can't we just spell everything the way it sounds?

My simplest answer would be for the sake of everyone else. The language itself is used as a means of communication. A communication that may only be made if all parties understand the language - which I believe would, most generally, require us all to use the 'same' language 'correctly'.

chrisallen_33 September 17, 2009, 1:29am

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hot4teacher: I ruffled your feathers, which was not my intent. Clearly, we share a passion for English, but we disagree on (at least) one point.

The question we are discussing here is whether–and when–nouns imported from other languages should be made plural in the manner of in the language of origin or in the manner of English nouns. In my earlier comment I said: “When a word borrowed from another language has been part of English for a long time it is proper to use the ‘English-based plural system.’” I stand by that. In common usage most imported nouns are best made plural in the English manner, unless used in a specific context, such as a treatise on Botany (or ancient Rome).

Bryan A. Garner, in ‘A Dictionary of Modern American Usage,’ makes this point clearly:

“Words imported into the English language from other languages–especially Greek, Latin, French, and Italian–present some of the most troublesome aspects of English plurals. Many imported words become thoroughly naturalized; if so, they take an English plural. But if a word of Latin or Greek origin is relatively rare in English–or if the foreign plural became established long ago–then it typically takes its foreign plural.”

Many plural nouns that are argued about today have long been anglicized. To cite but one example, “memorandum,” which comes to us from Latin via Middle English, has been around since the fifteenth century, according to Merriam-Webster. Yet it is sometimes written as “memoranda” in its plural use. But Thomas Jefferson–no mere scribbler–used “memorandums” as early as 1818 (The Anas). Other imports, like “octopus,” are erroneously latinized into “octopi,” though the root word is Greek. And seriously, does anyone use the word “platypodes?” That would be truly flat-footed.

douglas.bryant September 17, 2009, 8:50am

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Douglas, you appear to be very well educated in English linguistics, for which I respect you. Your quotes create a very formidable argument. Due to my upbringing, I understand and somewhat agree with B. Garner in that a words origin may be ignored if it is used and naturalized in another language (and that more obscure or rare words may not be). But I assert that if you know the original plural, you might as well use it. I don't think it is necessarily wrong if you anglicize the plural, just that for common words like radii and fora, the original plural form is pretty widely recognized and so one would have no real excuse not to use it.

I do concede, though, that it would be acceptable to use an anglicized plural for a word with a plural form that is rather obscure and not widely known (I didn't know that platypodes was the plural for platypus, and I'm Australian!).

Having said that, I think that the education system might be in a better place should the English faculties concentrate more on correct linguistics, grammar and punctuation; and less on how to decompose and analyze texts. I may see it differently to others, considering I haven't studied English since high school (I am an Engineering student).

chrisallen_33 September 17, 2009, 11:44pm

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hot4teacher,

Thanks for the kind words. I have enjoyed our discussion; you also make a strong case. Go on using those latinate plurals. As you say, someone has to preserve them. They may often be more appropriate in engineering anyhow. Even I prefer 'radii,' at least in writing, and would probably say 'abaci,' though I can't imagine needing two of them.

Incidentally, I didn't mean that the English plural of 'platypus' is actually 'platypode,' the accepted plurals are 'platypuses' and 'platypi." The latter illogically applies a Latin plural form to a Greek root. (I should have said "have been erroneously latinized"–it is a fait accompli.) This is not uncommon in English; we also have 'octopi' and 'cacti,' both of Greek origin. Still, perhaps it is fitting that such an apparent collection of leftover parts as a platypus should have a pastiche of a plural.

douglas.bryant September 19, 2009, 12:14pm

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"Cactus" is of Greek origin, but it was borrowed into English from Latin, just like "octopus" and "platypus" were. But "cactus" is different in that it would be pluralized "cacti" in Latin.

In any case, the idea that we must look to another language to find out how to use words is the etymological fallacy. To determine how English words are pluralized, it makes sense to look at how English writers actually pluralize them. In the case of "forum", the most common plural by far is "forums". As I said earlier, the OED doesn't even have any quotes with "fora".

Apparatus and status are borrowed from Latin fourth declension masculine nouns, so the Latin plurals are appar?t?s and stat?s. Agenda, erotica, opera, data, media, bacteria, candelabra, paraphernalia, trivia, graffiti are all borrowed from Latin plurals (Italian in the case of graffiti), so treating these words as singular would be wrong by hot4teacher's standards.

goofy September 21, 2009, 9:21am

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"Agenda, erotica, opera, data, media, bacteria, candelabra, paraphernalia, trivia, graffiti are all borrowed from Latin plurals (Italian in the case of graffiti), so treating these words as singular would be wrong by hot4teacher’s standards."

I would say that treating those words as singular would be wrong, especially considering that most of their singular forms are still used in modern English. We use the word "datum" when referring to datum edges in product measuring and manufacturing; medium is used everywhere, especially in visual arts contexts; bacterium is still used in biology studies and articles.

The fact that a lot of those words are used instead of their original singular form is wrong, and I believe that it is simply ignorance that has written off their original singular forms.

It is interesting to think, though, about the fact that we have been discussing the incorrect use of plurals from their singular forms, and hadn't mentioned the fact that many people also use the incorrect singular forms of plurals, or simply use the same word for both singular and plural cases. Data and media are the ones that annoy me the most.

chrisallen_33 September 21, 2009, 8:50pm

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"I would say that treating those words as singular would be wrong, especially considering that most of their singular forms are still used in modern English."

So you'd say that usage is irrelevant, that what matters is the words' etymology?

According to Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage, "data" followed by a singular verb is completely standard.

Another one is stamina... this is a plural noun in Latin, but it's singular in English.

goofy September 21, 2009, 10:47pm

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Goofy’s list of words borrowed from plural Latin nouns is an interesting one. Set aside ‘graffiti.’ which is not, indeed, from Latin but Italian; its singular, ‘graffito,’ remains an Italian word, even if it does appear in English dictionaries (as does hors d'oeuvre, to cite another non-naturalized immigrant).

The ramaining words fall into three groups:

The first group consists of words that are singular and have accepted English-style plurals: agenda, opera, candelabra. (The last, ‘candelabra,’ should probably not be included, since it enters modern English via Middle and Old English, from Latin.) I’m not sure why these are even mentioned. What is the controversy?

The second group are mass nouns: erotica, paraphernalia, and trivia. These cannot be directly assigned a numeric quantity, and are treated grammatically as singular: “The teenager’s erotica was [not were] found under his mattress.” Hot4teacher took Goofy’s bait on this one: “...most of their singular forms are still used in modern English.” What, exactly, is the singular of paraphernalia? Paraphernalium? Merriam-Webster says it is a “noun plural but singular or plural in construction.” As if that helps. The word originally referred to a bride’s excess stuff, beyond her dowry. How could that be singular?

The third group–bacteria, data, and media–are plural in standard English, but are increasingly being used both as singular and as mass nouns. The phrase “a type of bacteria” is technically incorrect, but commonly heard and read, especially in the media. ‘Media’ has itself become a mass noun when applied to television, radio, and printed journalism. The transition is not complete; the phrase “the media are” is still used. But ‘media’ as a mass noun is probably unstoppable, like the thing itself.

‘Data’ is similar to ‘media.’ Garner calls it a “skunked term,” and advises against using it. I wonder how that is working out for him. He begins, “...whether you write ‘data are’ or ‘data is,’ you’re going to make some readers raise their eyebrows.”He concludes: “Perhaps 50 years from now–maybe sooner, maybe later–the term will no longer be skunked: everybody will accept it as a collective. But not yet.” How time flies.

douglas.bryant September 22, 2009, 1:41am

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"Hot4teacher took Goofy’s bait on this one: “…most of their singular forms are still used in modern English.” What, exactly, is the singular of paraphernalia? Paraphernalium? "

My post may have been misinterpreted in regards to this. When I said "most" I was generally referring to the examples I used. I concede that the singular forms of words like paraphernalia are not commonly used in English (as far as I know, only the plural form was adopted into English - so it may somewhat be the reverse of what we are talking about). This appears, though, to have been bypassed by the common use of "a piece of paraphernalia" instead of "a paraphernalis" (?).


" “I would say that treating those words as singular would be wrong, especially considering that most of their singular forms are still used in modern English.”

So you’d say that usage is irrelevant, that what matters is the words’ etymology? "

I'm not sure what it is that you are getting at with this statement. I assert that there is no reason/need to incorrectly use a plural form of a word as its singular form when the singular form is still used. This may sound contradictory to one of my previous statements (that if everyone uses it, doesn't make it right), but it is in actual fact supporting it. The fact that people still use "datum" or "bacterium" (granted in specific industries) means that the use of "a data" or "a bacteria", although common, is (I believe) wrong. As I said before, these terms are often modified to a correct form of "a piece of ___".

I have studied biology before, and understand that the use of "a type of bacteria" may seem incorrect, but is actually fine. Bacteria almost always occur as colonies, and so you may often be describing a colony of bacteria, rather than a single bacterium, however describing single bacteria is still important and is still used.

As for stamina, I have never personally seen or heard anyone use stamina as a singular form. As far as I am aware, the singular form, stamen, refers to something other than a singular form of stamina as used to describe endurance or strength (the word may have some etymological connotation to an ability to endure, I am not sure). I've only really heard it used in the context "someone's stamina", which tends to push me towards believing that a stamen may be something that allows for endurance/strength. Someone may care to enlighten me.

chrisallen_33 September 22, 2009, 7:15am

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Douglas wrote:
"I’m not sure why these are even mentioned. What is the controversy?"

I mentioned all these words to show that their etymology as plurals in Latin or Italian or whatever is irrelevant to their use in English. hot4teacher seems to be arguing that a word should have a certain plural form that matches the plural form in the language the word was borrowed from. But the logical conclusion of this line of thinking is that all these other words, like opera, erotica, candelabra, paraphenalia, trivia, should therefore only be plural in English.

hot4teacher wrote:
"As for stamina, I have never personally seen or heard anyone use stamina as a singular form."

Really? It was first used as a plural in English, but began to be used as a singular in the 1800s.

"The stamina of the people was tested by a persecution that lasted for thirty years." - W.B. Thomson, 1895

I've only seen it used as a plural nowadays when referring to the stamens of plants.

goofy September 22, 2009, 8:22am

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" Really? It was first used as a plural in English, but began to be used as a singular in the 1800s.

“The stamina of the people was tested by a persecution that lasted for thirty years.” – W.B. Thomson, 1895

I’ve only seen it used as a plural nowadays when referring to the stamens of plants. "

Like I said, the word stamina is used in English as something other than its original meaning (or at least somewhat different to), and does not literally refer to, for example, a person's amount of "stamens", but rather a statistic or measurement (like mass) which may be used as both a quantitative statistic (E.g. ability to run 2km at 15km/h) or a qualitative statistic (E.g. "They show great stamina"), neither of which particularly pertain to a singular or plural form, so much as a quantitative/qualitative adjective.

I understand where you are coming from with "The stamina of the people was tested", but I believe that this is a case of what I've just mentioned. The stamina is simply a stat, and the "stamina of the people" may be referred to as a group of stamina(s).

I am forgetting why we are arguing about "stamina". It seems as though we both agree that using stamina as a singular form is incorrect.

chrisallen_33 September 22, 2009, 9:28am

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"I am forgetting why we are arguing about “stamina”. It seems as though we both agree that using stamina as a singular form is incorrect."

No we don't. "Stamina" is commonly singular, as in “The stamina of the people was tested”. "Was" is singular. If "stamina" was plural, then it would be "the stamina of the people were tested."

My point is that all these words are plural in their original languages, but that they're singular in English. You can tell they're singular because they're followed by a singular verb: "stamina is", "erotica is", "data is", "candelabra is", "trivia is", "opera is", etc etc.

You wrote:
"Since the word “forum” is a Latin word used in the English language, I do not see how using the English-based plural system would apply."

This is the etymological fallacy. If we must apply the Latin plural system to all words borrowed from Latin, then stamina, erotica, opera, data, trivia, etc. should always and only be plural in English.

goofy September 22, 2009, 9:41am

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"This is the etymological fallacy. If we must apply the Latin plural system to all words borrowed from Latin, then stamina, erotica, opera, data, trivia, etc. should always and only be plural in English. "

If you are saying that the use of the word "stamina" in English should only be as a plural, then I agree with you.

If you are saying that this 'would be' true but isn't due to historical use, then I go back to one of my previous arguments - that just because people say things one way, doesn't mean that this way is correct. I could say "Plural is correctly spelled 'ploorul'" but this obviously is not the case.

I know that many people believe that the etymological fallacy is erroneous, in that words may be borrowed from other languages and obtain a (somewhat) different meaning to its original meaning. I once again assert that common misuse doesn't account for correctness. The whole idea that the English language is 'advancing' or changing is simply evidence that the current language is incorrect. The idea of a correct language is either what the general majority believes to be correct, or what the original language holds to be acceptable.

I believe that the whole 'majority' concept is erroneous, in the same way that I described before. If the majority of the English-speaking population decided to spell 'plural' as 'ploorul', then this concept would identify the latter to be correct. If you can accept this, then good for you, but I think that it is blatantly obvious that this whole idea fallacious and misleading.

chrisallen_33 September 23, 2009, 1:08am

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hot4teacher: "... just because people say things one way, doesn’t mean that this way is correct."
Actually, that's exactly what it means. What we call the "definition" of a word is, in reality, simply the most commonly agreed upon usage.
If the majority did accept "ploorul" as the proper spelling, then so it would be. If this were not the case, the entire world would still be speaking a single language or perhaps somewhere between three to five languages in total. If you CAN'T accept this, then why are you typing in English and not (one of) the original language(s)?
As an aside, if languages were only decided by some elite subset, do you really think the WIND would be blowing outside while you WIND your clock? Be a cruel joke to play, indeed.

bjhagerman September 23, 2009, 6:46am

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"If you CAN’T accept this, then why are you typing in English and not (one of) the original language(s)?"

I cannot control the environment in which I was brought up; this doesn't stop me from believing that the way that languages alter (incorrectly imo) is wrong. If I could, I would ensure that everyone speaks the language correctly and at least attempt to prevent further deterioration of modern linguistics (part of the reason why I am on this discussion board).

"WIND would be blowing outside while you WIND your clock? Be a cruel joke to play, indeed."

I think you'll find that these to homonyms are alterations of different words from previous versions of the English language (or borrowed from other languages). This statement is in fact supporting my argument. It shows how the modification of languages can result in a more difficult or confusing language.

chrisallen_33 September 23, 2009, 7:03am

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Oh, yes, and if you insist on using English, then shouldn't you be using "plurel" from Middle English? No, wait, you should be using the Latin "pl?r?lis." No, that's wrong too, you should be using whatever form the word took in the language that Latin mutated from.

bjhagerman September 23, 2009, 7:04am

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"Etymological fallacy" is an important concept, but it has little relevence to the issue of the correct pluralization of imported nouns.

Wikipedia describes the term “etymological fallacy” thus:

“The etymological fallacy holds, erroneously, that the original or historical meaning of a word or phrase is necessarily similar to its actual present-day meaning.”

A more detailed definition from ‘Nonsense: A Handbook of Logical Fallacies’ by Robert J. Gula may be found here:

http://www.fallacyfiles.org/etymolog.html

douglas.bryant September 23, 2009, 7:33am

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"Oh, yes, and if you insist on using English, then shouldn’t you be using “plurel” from Middle English? No, wait, you should be using the Latin “pl?r?lis.” No, that’s wrong too, you should be using whatever form the word took in the language that Latin mutated from."

First off, I already had a go at someone for posting for the sake of 'taking the piss' at me, this is a discussion board. Post constructively or get the f**k out.

If you'd read my last post, you would understand why what you just said had already been answered.

"“Etymological fallacy” is an important concept, but it has little relevence to the issue of the correct pluralization of imported nouns."

As far as I am aware, the etymological fallacy describes, basically, the necessity for words to hold their original meanings. Having said that, I would also associate this fallacy with words holding their original contextual acceptability. By this I mean that words holding their original meanings, would (within reason) require their original contextual uses to be held as well (the misuse of a word can essentially change the literal meaning of that word. E.g. using a plural word as a singular form.).

chrisallen_33 September 23, 2009, 7:41am

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"I cannot control the environment in which I was brought up; this doesn’t stop me from believing that the way that languages alter (incorrectly imo) is wrong. If I could, I would ensure that everyone speaks the language correctly and at least attempt to prevent further deterioration of modern linguistics (part of the reason why I am on this discussion board)."
So, let me get this straight, you think that by complaining about the way language mutates, and has always mutated, you are going to fix it?
If your point is that it's an ineffective method, then I agree. If your point is that, because it's an ineffective method, we should stop doing it, then I have to ask by what means you intend to enforce this change.

bjhagerman September 23, 2009, 7:49am

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Yes     No