Submitted by christina on February 24, 2006

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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Sorry to revive this ancient thread, but i was looking online and i think it is interesting that the 'octopodes' plural is getting some support here and there. I thought it was worth highlighting the fact that 'antipodes' follows the same declension - but here we never use the singular form 'antipous'.

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Latin is not a dead language, it is actually the language used in the Vatican City. Language is fluid and morphs all the time, fora will become forums, stadia will become stadiums and the originals will be forgotten. Who says'refrigerator', 'perambulator' or 'influenza' any more?

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Well the Latin plural of innuendo might be innuendis; but really best avoided; hints would be a better word-choice.

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In general, clearly, foreign singulars and plurals are retained when a word is newly introduced but in time the word is naturalized. Remember, vast swathes of English are foreign words that have been gradually absorbed into the mother tongue.

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I'm sorry to hear criteria being used in the singular instead of criterion.
Similarly, 'phenomenon',

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I confess to being rather fond of the singular of scampi.....'scampo'.

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Pretentious or not, we might well say "radii", not "radiuses", "alumni", not "alumnuses" and "millennia" not "millenniums". I wouldn't even consider "millennia" a foreign word, merely an English, slightly irregular plural.

If this discussion has demonstrated anything it is that we can't trust that rules or practices will apply to every example.

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I think that even if the speaker knows the correct plural form of a word borrowed from a foreign language (including Latin), then the speaker should not use the correct foreign plural form of the word when speaking or writing English. Why disregard the rules of English grammar? I promise always to use innuendos rather than innuendi.

In fact I've never heard anyone use innuendi which I really could not say without laughing and would not be at all surprised if someone else in earshot made a sarcastic comment, probably including such derogatory terms as "tosser" and "pretentious", aimed at anyone who did use it. Not me of course. Far too polite and well brought up.

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@Skeeter Lewis - Thanks for that, I'd never realised that's where it came from. You can still find modern examples of it being used in the more general 'legal' sense at Google Books -

"His forensic skills helped him to a number of courtroom victories, but they left him with little sense of personal fulfillment" - D.W. Griffith's the Birth of a Nation, London Melvyn Stokes University College - 2007

This one is not so much legal as going back to idea of a/the forum - "Nixon was an effective debater, but his forensic skills were overwhelmed by the television images of a sweating, shifty—eyed politician which marked the return of the original Tricky Dick" - Presidential Upsets, Douglas J. Clouatre - 2013

And one, appropriately enough, from an account of Ancient Athens:

"His forensic skills had been tested in his litigation with Callippus and his neighbour, Nicostratus" - War, Democracy and Culture in Classical Athens, David M. Pritchard - 2010

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I know it's not relevant to this thread, but I like the adjective derived from forum - 'forensic', meaning 'of or pertaining to, or trained to give evidence in, a court of law'.
We tend to use it only of forensic scientists nowadays: they are scientists trained to give evidence in court. But formerly one would speak of a lawyer's 'forensic skills', meaning his skill at cross-examining witnesses. (A forum being a place of debate.)

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Since when is it considered "pretentious" to speak and write the English language correctly?

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Richard Chenevix Trench in "English Past and Present" writes: ... they were made to drop their foreign termination, or otherwise their foreign appearance, to conform themselves to English ways, and only so were finally incorporated into the great family of English words.

Thus a word is not truly English til it loses it foreign look.

To WW's list, I'd add other words like 'czar' ... in Russian, the plural is 'czari' (цари́) and the genitiv ... 'czar's' is 'czarya' (царя́) ... There were two czari and the men czarya (the czar's men) ... The administration's last two health czari ...

Naw, they don't hit the ears right. Once a word is fully English'd, it should take an English plural. Learning the sundry plural shapes from sundry tungs would be great, big pain in the ass ... Not gonna do it!

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Referendums or referenda? I think we should let the people decide.

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@jayles - Of course we do, but we don't make a rule of it. And there are good reasons for both your examples - 'al fresco' is an expression, not a word, and 'literati' is virtually only ever used in the plural - when did you last hear anyone mention a literatus (Latin) or literato - (old Italian)?

And then we play with them: to eat 'al desko' ; the 'glitterati', not to mention the 'latterati'.

And most of us, no doubt, refer to 'the hoi-polloi', even though 'hoi' already means 'the'. (Funny how those pedants who object to 'the' hoi-pollo never seem to worry about things like 'the' albatross, 'the' alcove or 'the' alcohol).

The only rule at play here is usage - and often both are possible, although we seem to have our preferences. Forums leads fora, but millennia (despite Firefox red-lining it) totally outstrips millenniums - which hardly registers in British books:

Americans seem to prefer referenda to referendums by quite a margin, while Brits less definitively prefer referendums (I'm with the Americans on this one). On the other hand, I doubt many people say 'musea':

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We do in fact take on board some non-English grammar when lifting 'foreign' phrases into English, like "al fresco", "literati" and so on.

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Damn! Sonate.

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@My Two Cents - so presumably:

Beethoven wrote five piano concerti and several piano sonati
The BBC has two symphony orchestre
The TV show should have been called 'The Soprani'
Shall I order two pizze?
Our village has several holiday ville
These paintings are repliche of the originals
Our school has two motti
The film company has studi in Hollywood
The police found two headless torsi
We went to the cathedral to look at the freschi
I saw an opera on Monday and another today so that's two opere this week already
She's having spaghetti and I'm having spaghetti, so that's two spaghetti, please.

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I think that if the speaker knows the correct plural form of a word borrowed from a foreign language (including Latin), then the speaker should use the correct plural form of the word, disregarding the rules of English grammar. If the singular form of a foreign word can become part of the English language, then why can't the correct plural of the same foreign word become part of the English language also? Why do we have to continue attaching an "s" to every foreign word when the plural of that word already exists?

I give you two examples of Italian words that are now commonly used in English. "Innuendi" is the correct plural of the word "innuendo." Please don't say "innuendos." "Cannoli" is the correct plural of the word "cannolo." Saying "cannolis" is redundant.

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@Warswaw Will My dislike of the plural curricula is twofold - to me it sounds wrong (but that's a personal thing) but also when spoken it gets confused with the adjective curricular as they both sound the same. And before you say that context should clarify any difference that would rather assume that everyone speaks grammatically and in sentences.

I'm actually quite happy with our current way of assimilating new forms of words into the English language through usage. Rules don't seem to help much as the forum has demonstrated.

I think I will start to use Octopodes as the plural of Octopus even though it's wrong.

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@Cirsium - I'm surprised at your two groups of linguists. Linguists usually observe language use rather than lay down the law about it. And in any case I would say that anyone saying words with foreign roots must take the original plural are wrong, bot equally so are those who say that the opposite is true.

No doubt the vast majority of words that have come into English from other languages (which means about three-quarters of the words in the English language) take a regular English plural. But in any language, but especially in English (ask any foreign learner) there are always exceptions.

As some have already mentioned there are all those Greek-based words with a -sis ending - analysis, basis,crisis, ellipsis, hypothesis, oasis, psychosis - where the -es plural ending is standard natural English, perhaps because it's easier to say than -ises. Personally I prefer curricula (probably because that's the way I've always heard it), but obviously I'd never say musea. I think we need to take each word on its own merits rather than make hard and fast rules either way.

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When I first came across this issue of Latin plurals within the English language I asked some linguists and they were very clear: an adopted foreign word takes the plurals of the language which has borrowed it.

So the plural of curriculum should be curriculums. Later found that similarly qualified linguists disagreed insisting it should it should be curricula. The newest dictionary I had at the time said it's an either/or. Use whichever one you want. I use curriculums but curricula sounds fine. Fora for forums sounds awful to me though but I know both are used. We don't water our gerania though do we? Nor do we wait for a bus only to find several bi turn up at once.

As an occasional field botanist though we do use taxa and taxon correctly but even the experts with advice from Latin scholars will occasionally name a plant incorrectly according to Latin grammar rules. It then has to be altered causing chaos in records which too easily can seem to have two species recorded when it is really one with two spellings.

I did study Latin at school but I'm on the whole against the use of the Latin plural for commonly used words in English. I do think they make the user sound pretentious and add nothing to clarity and understanding because most people these days I find didn't study Latin at school.

English adopts new words through common usage though so "hassle" is now and accepted dictionary word. The horror of "your" instead of "you're" will very likely happen as will "I would of" instead "I would have". Too many people use these abominations for them not to be adopted sooner or later. Omigod!

It will take time though and I'll probably be dead.

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Actually, octopodes would have been the correct plural in classical times because octopus is Greek rather than Latin. Octopuses is fine now, but octopi is stretching it, to say the least.

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As someone said way back in this thread, usage is the key,and you just have to take each word separately. No one would say musea, but on the other hand, not many would say crisises either. Some go only one way, some go only the other, with others we have a choice, including, I thought, referendum - ums / -a. For some strange reason I prefer referenda, but I've just discovered that referendum has no plural in Latin, so even that is a false assumption:

Apparently something similar has happened with octupi, which is not in fact the Latin plural, but an assumed Latin plural on the basis of other Latin plurals; the 'true' Latin plural is in fact the rarely used 'octopodes'.

Wikipedia has a useful list of plurals from foreign words:

Interestingly, the same word can also have two different plurals depending on context. Wikipedia quotes this example: "a radio or radar engineer works with antennas, but an entomologist deals with antennae".

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It is only in the abnormal cases where English words taken directly from the Latin are inflexive when representing number (id est singular or plural). Such words are generally taken from science, such as bacterium(sin.)/bacteria(pl.). I find it to be quite pedantic to decline all latin derived nouns which retain the same form. As far as grammatically correct English goes the Latin inflexive changes and the standard English pluralization are generally both accepted, exempli gratia, octopus can be either octopi or octopuses. It really comes down to the fact that English is not Latin and therefore should follow standard English rules first, unless for words that have special exception such as bacterium.

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Ha ha! What a brilliant thread! I still prefer the latin plurals. One of the comments about prepositions brought this to mind:

I lately lost a preposition;
It hid, I thought, beneath my chair
And angrily I cried, "Perdition!
Up from out of under there."

Correctness is my vade mecum,
And straggling phrases I abhor,
And yet I wondered, "What should he come
Up from out of under for?"
-- Morris Bishop

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do anybody know about this word?It is the longest word in english ???????Pl clarify.........


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@SteveWParker ... I can't speak for Chinese. I kno just enuff Japanese to be truly benighted in the tung and it has very few plurals but it does hav a rather complicated way of showing plurals that I'd rather not go to.

There are times (<<<plural of time) that it comes in handy. For byspel ... Don't forget yur books. There is no number or verb form to betoken whether I'm talking about one book or many books ... only the plural noun form shows that.

Aside from that, English went thru a radical plural form change at the same time it dropped the genders and cases. So there was the opportunity once before to drop them but the speakers chose not to. We'v had the same plural forms for several hundred years now. I don't see them dropping out in the coming years any more than expect to see the articles (a, an, the) drop out. (Russian doesn't hav them.)

It's only owing to Latin's snob appeal that we are still having these arguments about the plural of Latin words when benoted in English. Most loanwords swiftly become anglicized with the regular English form of taking an 's'. We don't argue about oblast/oblasts even tho oblasts isn't the Russian plural. It's taking a little longer with the Latin words but it is happening.

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So to summarise. Language evolves, and with each iterative change there are cries of "incorrect usage". Most of these, such as "teached", are not accepted by the public at large, and they don't make it into the accepted lexicon; others, such as "eyes", outlive the original "eyen" and become accepted.

There is no authority, just the free market of usage, except that the free market has guides. This forum is one such guide. The people who have argued their case here are contributing to whether "forums" or "fora" becomes more accepted in the future. Although the debate has been around for centuries, it is the rise of the internet that has made the word "forum" far more widespread and the debate more relevant.

My favourite suggestion came from rickdalaglio back in April 09 – use "fora" for meeting places, "forums" for discussion groups, in much the same way as "media" and "mediums" are both used as plurals for different meanings of "medium". That said, the one that gains greatest acceptance will become the "correct" plural.

Incidentally, this may all be moot in a few short decades. Nobody has posed the obvious question: "why do we need plurals?"

Norse and Anglo-Saxon traders coming together in York to trade realised their words were similar enough in root that they communicated better if they dispensed with grammatical gender, thus English lost most traces of masculine, feminine and neuter. Is the language any less rich?

They also dispensed with most inflections, with only plurality, possession and the occasional oddity like "whom" remaining. Do we feel English is poorer because of this?

In number, we retain singular and plural, but don't have the Ancient Greek-derived dual (except in oddities such as "trousers" and "pants"). Should we mourn its passing?

Chinese and Vietnamese possess no plural – they have no "number" as English has no "gender". A Chinese speaker may learn English and wonder why we need to differentiate between "one car" and "two cars" when the words "one" and "two" do it for us. They may be as baffled as some English speakers are about the purpose of gender in French and Latin, or the dual number in Homer.

If we don't have a separate inflection for "two of something", why do we require to differentiate between "one of something" and "more than one of something". We don't need separate inflections for two, three or four, why should one be treated differently from other numbers?

So, "fora" or "forums"? Well, why not "forum"? Why do we need to inflect? "This is one of the best forum I've visited"; "I posted on three forum today"; "Of all the forum, this is the testiest". Yep. Works for me.

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Are you good English speakers ordering two capuccini from the café and several pizze for dinner? I wonder if there exists fora to discuss the extent of this argument.

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Judging by the recent chronological spacing of the comments, I don't suppose anyone will read this but :-
I immediately thought of flora as well, so I would favour forums for that reason.
I also agree on the absurdity of 'ough' although I think phlegm take top spot. Well done Dr Johnson (and so you should have been)
My favourite little-known singular is scampo/scampi.
and I think Webster acted reasonable in preferring color to 'couleur'.

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@rauxa ... Forum is not neologism (a newly coined word). It is a loanword (a word adopted from a foreign language with little or no modification).

As for forum, put me down for forums. When I first saw fora, I thought someone had misspelled flora. I know enuff Latin to be wrong about 3/4 of the time. lol ... Yes, I used enuff ... the "ough" cluster needs to go the way of the dodo bird.

You are correct that there are anglo-root words that could do the same thing and then we wouldn't need to have this moot over forums / fora. We could use moot itself or "mootstow" or "mootsted".

@nigel.pindar ... Americans (Webster mainly) chose the Latin "color" over the French "colour" ... and the Latin "honor". The frain is, why do the Brits want to use a French spelling? But then, you can avoid that by using the anglo-word, hue instead of color.

@ctiney ... child and ox both come from Old English ... nominative plurals in OE were not formed by adding an "s" (BTW, if ox did, it would be oxes not oxs). They kept their strong plurals with slight changes in ME whereas ax (OE æx) didn't. Why? Can't tell you, but I'm ok with the strong plurals.

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If we use neologism, we must use them properly, it's always another or more words in english to say the same. English is so rich in words, that you may use a lot of synonims. But if we want to use the latin or greek neologisms, we must use them with the correct gramatical rules. The spanish name "foro" is not a neologism, is the evolution of the ancient latin word, so, is not the same. Then, everywhere that you use curriculum, forum, index, or any other neologism, you must put them in plural as curricula, fora and indices, if you don't want to have problems, there are a lot of other real english words to do the same work.

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Re: Medium

Everyone here seems reasonably convinced that the correct plural of medium is media. If you're talking about the medium in which something exists (a technical term), then I would agree. But what if you're talking about t-shirts? If I asked for "two media, in black" no-one would understand what I was asking for and I would be looked at like a crazy person. If I asked for "two mediums, in black" they would know exactly what I wanted.

Now, you could argue that one should never use medium as a noun in that way, but in common parlance, short-cuts are common and "two medium t-shirts, in black" is unnecessary when you're either holding or pointing at the object in question. Certainly, I would argue that in informal parlance, there are circumstances when "mediums" is acceptable. And that doesn't even get into the whole question of how to refer to a street with multiple psychics on it...

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Hmm, I don't mind people using 'forums', but for me it just sounds unnatural (believe it or not). I mean, let's be consistent. Because if we allow both forums and fora to be correct, then for example the plural of crisis could be crisises instead of the latin crises.

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Are people still posting in this thread? Just like the words "referendum", "compendium" and "emporium", the word "forum' has two plurals: one ending in -a and one ending in -ums. This is because those words are commonly used, but not commonly enough to make the Latin plural formation obsolete (such is the case with words like "aquarium"). It's a simple matter.

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My apologies for suggesting 'its' is a plural possessive pronoun rather than a possessive form of 'it'. What can I say - it's very late. It's lucky I mentioned that I'm a layman, not a scholar.

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@nigel.pindar: Your example of the difference between its and it's is erroneous. It sounds possesive writing 'its mine', but it's obviously incorrect as, in this case, it means 'it is mine' - it's being the correct usage as a contraction of 'it is'. 'Its' is the plural possessive pronoun of it (obviously). It's plain to see that the dog does not like sharing its bone. Not a great sentence, but one which hopefully makes it clearer.
An interesting forum, with many well informed contributers. I am in no way of the same calibre, and do not pretend to be, but perhaps the discussions on some subjects here have gone on for far too long. They are, in the end, fairly trivial. The English language is a wonderful thing, full of surprises and quirks and is made all the richer by subtle changes. Sticking solely to the past is retrogressive by its very nature, and does not allow for fresh life to be breathed into it. Latin and Greek are dead languages, but they are still very much alive, in part, within our wonderful language. Academics,it seems to me, spend way too much time considering the minutia to be able to see the bigger picture. I cannot see that using 'forums' instead of 'fora' is, in some way, a great insult to the English language. I see it, rather, as growth. If there are any grammatical errors in my posting, so be it, but I won't lose too much sleep over it. I will, however, as a layman, try to improve my understanding of my mother tongue. Now, who was it who said in an earlier post that WTF is an acronym rather than an initialism? Just joking!

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Sorry - I'm going to have to come down squarely on the side of "Forums" here. When we use the word while speaking English, it is no longer a Latin word. It is an English word, so English convention should preside. Useage is the determining factor here. How do folks use it? Overwhelmingly, they use "Forums". It's "Forums"

All of the arguments I've seen here referencing Latin useage and historical useage pale. I'm not saying they're invalid, just inconsequetial.

So I'll know what folks mean if they bring up "Fora", but their tweed will be showing.

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I know this was brought up a long time ago, but I only just found this discussion. "Internet fora" is correct, as it can be translated (defined?) as "places for meeting and discussion on the internet" and thus maintains the original meaning of fora. However, internet forums is the more common usage. Also, English is Germanic in origin, but many, many words are from Romance languages. It may be a line fusion into the new Romano-Germanic family.

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When bringing in foreign words some languages change the spelling and plural to their own system. So for example in hungarian "buffet" is spelt "bufe" (with an umlaut) and a regular plural. Things might have been easier if we had adopted this approach in English from the start, but there seems to be some snob value in using foreign plurals when English ones would be simpler ie totally anglicize the imported word. As for the spelling.... many clean ups have been suggested, and failed basically because there are too many vowels and dipththongs compared to the letters available in the Roman alphabet, and also for want of government action,

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@Chris B:
Hahaha. I also watch soccer, and I know what you're talking about. I wouldn't, however, sacrifice the finals series' for the sake of grammatical correctness. It also makes it more interesting, later in the season, for supporters whose teams might be out of the running for the minor premiership (table leader at the end of the regular season) - knowing that any team in or around the top 8 have a chance at winning.

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Off-topic: regarding AFL/NRL finals, they could get around all those terminology issues by just awarding the championship to whichever team gets the most points during the season like they do in football (I'm talking round ball here). The finals system to me is like a marathon where the first eight runners to reach 25 miles start the last mile at the same time.
Talking of octopuses (which is the only acceptable plural to me), how about octo-finals for the round before the quarter-finals?

Nigel_P: yes, pick up any old-ish book published in the UK and it'll be full of recognize, realize, etc. This whole anti-Z thing seems quite recent.

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Re: it's and it's: The reason that spell check isn't doing what you expect is that it's is an abbrviation of it is wheras the possessive term is actually "its" not "it's", as in "its mine".
@AO, "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? "
I don't think that the current greek/latin root confusion dates back to medieval grammarians but to Dr. Johnson, the author of the first English dictionary, who decided which words he thought had Latin roots and which had Greek (often very badly). It's (not its!) all been downhill since then.
For some excellent writing on the origins of the English language and its correct use see Bill Bryson's "Mother Tongue" and "Troublesome Words" and also "Eats, Shoots and Leaves" by Lynne Truss regarding the reils of punctuation.
Bill points out that the assumption that it's (not its) correct to use an "S", not a "Z", is a common misconception in the UK and that many spellings with z in can be traced back some considerable time; i.e. before the Americans decided to standardise all the spellings in bizare ways. (E.g. Color, not colour, armor not armour, etc.) From this you can tell I'm English not American. (I'd have gone for culler, armer or armur, etc.!)

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The 2008 OED lists 'octopuses', 'octopi' and 'octopodes' in that order; with use of the last indicated as "rare".

If you want to use the correct Latin name for the creature, then it's polypus (singular) polypodes (plural).

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IIRC, 'referendum' is a Latin gerund, so has no plural.

'Referenda' - meaning things to be referred, and necessarily connoting a plurality of issues - is the Latin plural gerundive.

As to octopi, they have six arms and two legs.

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In response to DamonTarlaei's comment the plural of Octopus is not Octopi. The word Octopus derives from a Greek root not a Latin root, Okta meaning eight and pous meaning foot . The correct plural is in fact Octopodes however most find this pedantic. When not using Octopodes the only acceptable alternative is Octopuses.

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Regarding "debut" I must admit that the kiwi commentators (or commentors) are just as guilty. In fact perhaps "tormentors" would be more apt. :)

As for RWC, I now suffer from multiple personalities. Heart is with Scotland but don't see any real chance.
Will be rooting for them until they exit, then the 'Boks, followed by ABs, and of course any side playing the Wallabies! :)

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* I just noticed a bunch of grammatical errors in my last post... readers beware! lol

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That's okay, dude. I understand.

It's funny that you should mention that, because I think we actually misuse the "semi-final" and "quarter-final". With the NRL and AFL (the biggest leagues in Australia - you'd probably be somewhat familiar with the NRL, being in NZ) they both have 8 teams in their finals series - which comprises of quarter-finals -> semi-finals -> preliminary finals -> grand final. This, to me, makes the preliminary finals actually semi-finals, the semi-finals quarter-finals, and the quarter-finals eighth-finals.

As for the whole "debut" thing: Needless to say, a great majority of commentators are former players (not necessarily scholars) so take their pronunciation and vocabulary with a pinch of salt. I haven't noticed such pronunciation to be unique to Australia, although I haven't really paid attention to it (I guess with your pedigree, you'd pick up on stuff like that).

This brings up another discussion for me... shouldn't "commentators" really just be called "commentors", and should the word "commentate" not be considered redundant?

By the way, with your background, who would you support in the rugby world cup?

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Sorry if you found my post insulting, it certainly was not intended to be.

I stand by my comment on "preliminary final", surely quarter-final or semi-final would be a more descriptive term.

As for "debut", listen to your sports commentators who almost without exception persist in pronouncing the word as "day boo".

As to my origins, I am an ex-pat Scot who now lives in NZ after a number of years in RSA.

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HairyScot, I take offense to your comments about Australians (being one myself). It is unnecessary to directly insult anyone (or group) on this forum regardless of what they might have said about you or anyone else.

'Preliminary finals' are the games in a finals series that directly lead up to the 'grand final' - more directly, the final round before the grand final. "Preliminary" using it's dictionary meaning of "something that precedes or is introductory or preparatory" (from Merriam-Webster). The term is not limited to Australian sports as I believe it is also used in boxing (correct me if I am wrong). You could, I guess, refer to any finals game (other than the grand final) as a "preliminary final", as they all inevitably precede the grand final.

I'm not sure about your comment on our pronunciation of "debut". I haven't noticed any particular trends occurring throughout Australia of poor pronunciation of it... at least no more than any other country.

Since you are attacking my entire nation, what makes you think you know how I pronounce "debut"? From where do you hail?

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Last sentence of previous post should read:-

However I feel it ironic that someone from a nation where they cannot correctly prounouce “debut” feels qualified to hold forth on the english language.

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Wish I had found this thread earlier!
Would have loved to argue a few points with hot4teacher or any other antipodean, especially those around sporting terms.
For example they have in Oz sports something called a "preliminary final".
Is that not an oxymoron?
However I feel it ironic that someone from a nation where theynnot correctly prounouce "debut" feels qualified to hold forth on the english language.

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I skipped from 2007 forward, so this may have been covered. Those people arguing that we shouldn't be bound by 'foreign' rules should presumable bear in mind that pretty well all our language is from some invader or other. Hence the plural of child should be childs not children (Saxon), ox -> oxs, and I can't remember the other example.

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I got interested party - I'll check back often, I wanted to say hello

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I really love forum here. See you later!

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So many different points made by so many individuals who each feel strongly enough about the English language to post on here. Some angry enough to present 'typos' themselves, some with totally opposite points of view. It just goes to show that however passionate we are about what is right or wrong with our language, there will always be change and there will always be someone who disagrees with us. In ten years' time every one of us will be even more horrified by the new entries in the dictionary but do not despair - you now know that you will not be the only one dismayed!

I love you all, since at least you care.

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I hate to sound critical, Charlie, but since you seem so adamant, I have to point out that you don't seem to actually understand what the words datum and data actually mean, conceptually. A datum doesn't have to be the smallest indivisible element, a bit, per se. A datum is literally a single piece of information, fact, statistic, etc. It doesn't have to be a single bit or even a single byte. If I enter someone's name, address, credit card number, item purchased, etc. into a computer to generate, say, a purchase order or something, the entire entry, hundreds of bytes is one single datum when viewed in the larger context of all the customers in my database. Sure, if I'm talking about the individual bytes I could call them data if I want to, or I could, just as validly, refer to the single record as a datum. It's purely a matter of what my point of view is. Even an entire three inch thick telephone book containing millions of names can be one single datum if it's sitting on a bookshelf in the library next to a hundred other telephone books for different cities.

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So, Charlie, do you think that if a statistician is entering a series of measurements into an excel spreadsheet, we should not refer to each measurement as a datum? I would think that the measurement, itself, would be a datum - regardless of how we distribute it.

Please note, Charlie, that whilst I agree with your efforts to preserve this great language, I disagree with your attitude and your 'high horse'. I am not trying to portray myself as some PhD in literacy. I am simply an engineering student who happens to take pride in (what I know to be) the correct usage of my language. I made the point earlier (May 11th) that the reason I don't have flawless grammar, is that my teachers throughout school didn't (far from it). Your point would be better made in Old English, would it not? But I guess that your teachers didn't teach you Old English as a child (if you are not still one).

For the record, I know that it is incorrect grammar to begin a sentence with 'But'. I simply used poetic license to make a point.

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"I am getting angrier the more I read. there is not a single post completely devoid of any grammatical error or some mistake in punctuation."

"...example used mkes no sence."


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With regard to my missing capital letter, for which I apologise if necessary, there is a difference between a typing error and wilful destruction of our language.

I never said the data has no place in the language, just that the the above point about use of the mythical word, datums, is flawed in a literal sense because the example used mkes no sence. One cannot, in any sense, input a datum to a computer. One can, of course, input data which may later, be viewed or represented as a datum.

Is it acceptable to talk about "this data", or should we always say "these data"?

My overall point is that this is a place for individuals, who are supposed to care about our language, to discuss it. Yet all the evidence points to the fact that those individuals are the very people who are destroying it. There is even a paragraph above this which has been ended with with the modern term "or whatever". That is actually painful to me.

Stand up to and act to preserve your language.

Operor non permissum nothus homo frendo vos solum.

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We all have off days. Grammatical errors, once in a while, should be disregarded.

Charlie, are you implying that only 'data' should have a place in our language because we can only enter at least 8 bits into our computer with every keystroke? We can (just about) boil down every piece of information into smaller units, but that doesn't disregard the importance of each 'datum'. Merriam-Webster defines data as being "something given or admitted especially as a basis for reasoning or inference". Each datum is simply a piece of information, regardless of the memory it takes up in a computer (which, for the record, consists of a series of 1's and 0's - each being a single datum). A datum could just be one's measurement of a specific length.

Please note that if this is not what you were implying, then I apologize. Tone is often very difficult to gather when reading plain text. I wasn't sure if you were being a smart-arse or were being serious.

For the record, Charlie, what is your take on 'forums'/'fora'? Your posts seem rather ambiguous and off-topic (to say the least).

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Better change "there" to "There" to begin the second sentence.

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I am getting angrier the more I read. there is not a single post completely devoid of any grammatical error or some mistake in punctuation. We might as well all start using text speak and using modernisms such as "or whatever" when we have difficulty correctly terminating our sentences.

I despair!

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Kev - you too have no place in this. Every key stroke of data entered into a computer is equal to at least 8 bits, or a byte. It is therefore not possible to enter a datum into a computer, only data.

I suppose if you were entering a single co-ordinate, for example, this could be described as a datum but data will always be correct because of the way computers handle data, there will always have to be more than a single bit!

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DamonTarlaei, Latin scholar my p?dex, Octopus is latinised Greek, therefore the correct plural is octopodes. The internet is not for the likes of you to spout regurgitated nonsense and ill-informed, putrid falsehoods. Switch it off and go away!

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I've just read on a forum post "foras" and I have to admit it was cringe-making.

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To go back to September 2009, I'll tell Hot4Teacher an answer to the English soccer question.

The word Penalty is a reserved word in the rules of the game, I'll capitalise it for clarification. It specifically means a free shot at the goal from a marked spot on the pitch – any foul in the marked box around the goal results in a Penalty.
Anyone who’s ever seen a game probably knows what a Penalty is.

Because the word Penalty is reserved and means a very specific thing in the rules of the game it's generally not used to describe or discuss any other part of the game.
Sure, a free kick is a type of penalty to the opposing team, but because of the confusion it's not called a penalty.

It's much the same that in cricket people won't use the word Test except when discussing a test match or in Rugby you won’t hear people talking about have a good try at scoring because it can be confused with the Try which means to score.

Of course someone could use the word penalty to describe a free kick or yellow card or anything else, but it would normally display an ignorance of the game which is easily remedied with a quick chat, or a contrary nature and a desire to start a pedantic argument which is also easily but in a much less friendly way.

If you’re talking about internet message boards then they are forums, if you're talking about where Caecilius meets to his drinking buddies then it's fora.

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Interestingly, I wonder of the people posting on here claiming that 'forums' is just an example of assimilation and that the word correctly follows the rules of English, how many would enter datums into a computer?

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Maybe it's just because I like being different, but I tend to use fora over forums. While I think that, in Modern Internet English, forums is pretty much standard, I prefer fora.

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It seems to me that the word "media" is a prime candidate for this discussion thread. I encounter a great deal of confusion about how to use it properly.

Here is an excerpt from a NYT article:

"No one doubts that social media – all the stuff on Facebook, Twitter and other online forums – provides a rich lode of user sentiment that companies ought to be able to exploit."

" media... provides"?

~ ~ ~

NOTE: I haven't yet had a chance to read through all of the posts in this thread, so please forgive me if I am raising an issue that has already been thoroughly dissected. I look forward to returning to read the full discussion here.

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goofy, each person is only a product of their environment - the language in which they speak is the language of which they were taught. In the modern world, the English teachers at primary and secondary schools are hardly the greatest speakers of the language. Hell, in primary school I often corrected my own teacher's grammar!

It has taken a long time for the English language to evolve (or, more appropriately, de-evolve) into it's current state. It's not as though we can just stop where we are and return to speaking in 5th Century English, or Classical Latin, or whatever.

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Dave Johnson, I couldn't have expressed it better myself. You make an excellent point by associating the degeneration of 'English' with the simplicity of a child's grammar and vocabulary - in a similar vein to previous posters' arguments.

It is unfortunate that the quality of language education (at least from where I grew up), is too poorly structured so as to put more emphases on literary analysis than to actually teach the language we are analyzing (social networking sites are not doing people any favors in this regard - not the only reason I steer well clear of them).

For the record, I am very much opposed to unnecessary modifications of the English language. Comedian Adam Hills made a good point when pointing out that "... 'bouncebackability' had been accepted into a highly regarded dictionary, despite the fact that there is already a word for that - resilience!". Also, on a MadTV skit it was pointed out that the word 'literally' now essentially means the opposite of it's literal meaning - as defined in Merriam-Webster:
"1 : in a literal sense or manner : ACTUALLY
2 : in effect : VIRTUALLY "

The repercussions of this unnecessary mutilation of our language can already be seen by simply traveling to another English speaking country. Dialects of English are starting to arise (not just accents) - most notably the arbitrary spelling modifications in American-English from British-English (this spell-check is making my point).

I suppose it would've made a good point to have posted this in Old English, but not only do I lack the knowledge, it would make it difficult for people to understand (a good point?).

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Dave Johnson: It's the "the true scholars of English, the writers and the poets" who are using the words you're complaining about. Well, maybe not the poets, but good writers of all kinds use "forums" and "data" as a mass noun in carefully edited text.

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Folk who claim that languages have 'evolved' when an invalid plural or verb tense becomes commonplace, or a plural starts to be taken as a singular in the manner of many people's usage of 'data' are just making excuses.

How credible would it be if an 8 year old child started complaining that they were still due full marks and that English was 'evolving' if their teacher marked their creative writing story down because it mentioned that a character had 'writed' their name onto a guest book, or for the same character having previously 'seed' a friend doing the same?

What about the same five year old demanding full marks despite saying 'earlier that day my daddy buyed me a new pair of shoes' and what should the parent think when that kid says that her teacher had 'teached' her some new words that day? That English is 'evolving' ?

It's not progress when simplistic verb forms become commonplace, or when spellings are 'simplified', what it is is degeneration. It's a sign that education has been poor so that many many people think incorrect spellings of certain words to be correct and that society has decided to change the dictionary to match the commonest mistakes.

The end result of that is for the homogeneity of the English language, the commonality of the core spellings of related words, to disappear, for it to no longer be possible for people to look at the way a word they haven't seen before is built and to guess its meaning from other similar words in combination with context. Schoolchild errors make it into the dictionary, English becomes simplistic, the common roots of words are forgotten because they no longer look the same and the subtlety that's possible with our wonderful mongrel of a language is lost for good.

Bottom line. English is known, internationally, for it's ability to convey subtle meanings; there are half a dozen ways to say virtually anything more complex than 'the cat sat on the mat' - and in fact there are probably ways to say that, like 'the cat sprawled on the mat'.

The different ways of saying things have very very slightly different meanings, and the right choice of words makes a complex or subtle concept easily and very precisely communicable in only a few words.

The differences in the meanings that the true scholars of English, the writers and the poets, fully grasp and use to get their subtle meanings across in the most beautiful way possible, come from the origins of the words. The true meanings are to be found in the true meanings of the foreign or ancient language words that were 'borrowed' to form English.

Although each of the different words mean *roughly* the same things there are slight differences and you can only really grasp those if you've studied the language and know the roots of the words.

Those roots are no longer visible when someone has decided that it's better to forget that the five year old was never taught how to spell and that it's easier to change the dictionary so everyone spells like a five year old and the original spellings, which came from the original sources of the words and which reveal the true deeper meanings, are forever lost in the brain-dead, uneducated, mush.

Dave J.

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This whole "none" thing is really much simpler than it seems. Consider:

1 - No [singular noun] is...
2 - No [plural noun] are...
3 - Not any [singular noun] is...
4 - Not any [plural noun] are...
5 - Not one [singular noun] is...

Every one of the above can be replaced by "None is/are..." as appropriate.

The context will tell you what the intent is and which is correct.


No dogs are allowed in the house
None are allowed in the house.

No contestant is the victor until all have played.
None is the victor until all have played.

As the quoted usage note suggests, it's usually plural and not singular unless unless clearly, uneguivocably, and unambiguously so. I guess this makes sense, since if someone were to use it in the singular, I would think he or she would be more likely to just use "no one". Example: "No one is home" would sound pretty awkward as "none is home" wouldn't it?

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Tristan and John,

Interesting exchange on the usage of the word "none". I always thought that it meant, specifically and solely, "not one", and should therefore always be used with a singular verb. I'll pay attention now to whether it is being used in the sense of:

1. “not any persons or things”
2. “not one” or “not any”.

However, this explanation confuses me. How does this second "not any" (in #2) differ from “not any persons or things”?

"None" is certainly followed by a plural verb often enough in print and other media, and that has always driven me a bit mad.

Here's an example from the New York Times (see the last three words):

"Dr. Kleiman’s work also included the highly public, always stressful and generally thankless task of trying to coax healthy offspring from the Washington zoo’s first, reluctant giant pandas, Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing, and having to explain year after year to a disappointed public why none were forthcoming."

Would this be a case in which the plural usage is correct?

Here is another example from the New York Times, which seems grammatically incorrect to me:

"All the leading candidates warned voters that 'cuts are coming,' but none were even close to honest about how deep."

Does anyone have an opinion?

Here is another case in which I now have doubt (last sentence, after the comma):

"In one of Dr. Griffiths’s first studies, involving 36 people with no serious physical or emotional problems, he and colleagues found that psilocybin could induce what the experimental subjects described as a profound spiritual experience with lasting positive effects for most of them. None had had any previous experience with hallucinogens, and none were even sure what drug was being administered."

The following example confounds me when I try to use the explanation above to determine whether "none" should be plural or singular here. To my mind, it should clearly be singular in this case. Yet it seems to me that "none" could refer to “not any things” here, as in, "not any regrets".

"Lorena Ochoa walked away from competitive golf with grace and humility, the same way she walked in. For sure, as she might say, there were few regrets. None were important enough to mention to reporters on Friday, when she preferred to accentuate the positive, again, one of her endearing traits."

So, by according to the explanation above, what would be an example in which "none" *must* be followed by a singular verb?

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I took the time to enjoy this thread and it's myriad views. Great sport and entertainment, a genuine thank you to one and all.

My personal slant is that 'foreign' words should be correctly singulariSed or pluraliSed (guess which side of the pond I'm from?) regardless of the era of origin, as with graffitti and scampi which have more recently entered common English usage.

My personal bug-bears are the musical terms sonata, solo and concerto, often mis-pluralised with the additon of an 's'.

P.S. I agree it should be maths as in the UK, it being a contraction of mathematics.

P.P.S. Don't get me started on stressed syllables in pronunciation. I can never understand in the US why the herb is pronounced oREGano but the state is OregON. Why not oregAno or oREGon? Then why not aVOCado, TOMato and POTato? Any road up, if it wasn't for a quirk of fate this whole thread would be in Spanish!

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This was quite entertaining, and has given me a great laugh on this otherwise bland afternoon. I personally agree that Latin plurals probably aren't widely accepted today, but why stop there. Why not use other Latin forms of the words. It would cut many uses of the word "of." :)

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What a horrible and aggressive forum this is! So unnecessary - I only came across this by googling forums vs fora and was confronted by this vile diatribe. Sort yourselves out. Go to "inadequate_bully_forums/fora" to continue this sort of nonsense.

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[...] about the correct plural of forum itself — is it forums or fora? — as have some language blogs and other sites. Latin plurals are evidently a popular topic. Some of the commentary is sensible [...]

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I appreciate your directness, Porsche, and I admit that I acted like a d-bag to say the least.

"Surely you haven’t forgotton your very first post, have you?"

Unfortunately, with the number of irrelevant responses I have made to (and I stand by the use of the term) trolls, I had forgotten my original posts. Thinking back, however, I agree with my original 'views', but I apologize if anyone was offended by their nature (tbph, I couldn't care less if you were offended. What difference should it make if I think you're an idiot?).

My arguably 'un/called-for' backlashes came due to a habit of mine brought upon by being constantly, unnecessarily, and unreasonably scrutinized and ridiculed by people throughout my life.

Having said all of that, aside from my original frustration-influenced post, I feel that all of my posts were of a reasonable nature, until people (namely Name (supplied)) began to just take shots at me. If anyone has a problem with the way I've acted, don't act like it was uncalled for.

I have no beef with anyone on this discussion board, aside from Name (supplied), and possibly the appropriately monikered Dave. I expect that you two would have no problems having someone you have a problem with, having a problem with you.

Let this be the end of the sarcastic maelstrom, and return to the original topic.

P.S. In regards to my name, I thank you Porsche for clarifying Dave's issue for me, but I would like to remind Dave that (as I mentioned) there is nothing wrong with lusting after a teacher. Physical attraction is as natural as methane gas. It is somewhat to blame for our existence.

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hot4teacher, after your last post, I thought I might be able to clarify a few things for you. Let me address a few of your comments:

When you said:

"At no point did I state that I was correct nor that anyone else was incorrect. I simply offered my opinion – which I am now somewhat reluctant to do, considering the amount of trolls who responded only to take shots at me.
I already modestly stated my level of education in English, which leaves me confused at attempting to understand why you think I’m being condescending or righteous – which is ironic."

Surely you haven't forgotton your very first post, have you? Here:

"For those whom [sic] 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."

So, the fact is, you did not just offer your opinion. Furthermore, you absolutely did say that you were "correct" and that, no, not "anyone" but everyone other than you was incorrect. What's more, you referred to the collective group of other posters on this forum as "idiots". Then you have the nerve to complain when others have pointed this out to you. Sorry, but if you feel that you are being characterized as condescending, it's because you have been. You are the one who has made this personal. Others are simply pointing it out to you, frankly, with a surprising amount of restraint. Even now, during your failed attempt at backpedalling, you've called your detractors "trolls". How about this? If you're going to participate in an intellectual debate, learn to present your arguments clearly. Recognize that they will come under scrutiny and accept criticism graciously. If you think the opposition is wrong, reposte with facts and research, not personal attacks. Just suck it up and stop being such a crybaby. What's truly ironic is not how you think you have been treated, but that your original premise is actually incorrect. From a descriptive point of view, fora is not in common usage. From a prescriptive point of view, there is no prescriptive rule that fora, or latinized plurals in general, should be preferred. In fact, exactly the opposite is the case as has been stated many times and backed up with authoritative sources.

Next, you have pointed out that your choice of name, hot4teacher has nothing to do with your sexual interest in teachers, but, instead, is because of your appreciation of a Van Halen song. Surely you realize that the Van Halen song is entirely about someone who has a sexual interest in his teacher? If the name is inappropriate, it really doesn't matter whether it's your personal interest or Van Halen's. The song is still glorifying teacher-lust. Personally, I'm not offended in the least by your choice of handle; I just wanted to point out the logic to you.

Last, please don't take anything I'm saying as a personal attack. I'm just letting you know what I have observed with the hopes of offering you some insight into what you seem to be experiencing. Perhaps if you tried a more collegial approach, you might have a more pleasant experience, here and elsewhere.

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Before you have another go at me, Dave, I'll point out that my internet nickname "hot4teacher" was chosen due to my liking of the song "Hot for teacher" by Van Halen, not to imply that I have sexual interests in teachers.

At no point did I state that I was correct nor that anyone else was incorrect. I simply offered my opinion - which I am now somewhat reluctant to do, considering the amount of trolls who responded only to take shots at me.

I already modestly stated my level of education in English, which leaves me confused at attempting to understand why you think I'm being condescending or righteous - which is ironic.

"Just be careful you are not just showing off some vain opinion of superiority you may be holding on to."

"As for the quality of some of the postings here from the inappropriately monikered “Hot4Teacher”; It’s poor."


For interest's sake, what was poor about my posts? Was it that you, William "Dave" Shakespeare, are the world's most educated English scholar and know for a fact that I am incorrect? Or were you so shaken up by the fact that my moniker is "hot4teacher", which you erroneously deciphered as meaning that I found teachers attractive (with which there is nothing wrong - teachers are just people too).

For someone who portrays himself as being a seemingly level and righteous person, you take a lot of offense to opinions that happen to differ from your own.

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I believe Forums is better if you are writing in English.
English borrows words from many languages, but that doesn't mean we have to use the associated grammar too.
As for the quality of some of the postings here from the inappropriately monikered "Hot4Teacher"; It's poor.
There is no set rule for plurals of Latin words borrowed for use in English.
Just be careful you are not just showing off some vain opinion of superiority you may be holding on to.
When You say "Fora" What you may be using is the compound word ForaOfCourseYouKnowTheLatinPluralDon'tYou?No?OhSorryToProveI'mOfASuperiorEducationalKLevelToYouThankYouI'llTakeYourSilenceAsASubmission.
Forums will do, thank you.

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I landed on this page in the hope of finding out whether to write Fora or Forums, turns out both ways may be right. In addition I found some BS argument between a bunch of buggers with too much time on their hands.

Please use that energy to better the world instead.

Oh, and thanks Steve.

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I figured it would be FORA which is how I would say it. So I looked n my dictionary and it gives both ways.

Meanwhile, imported words normally use the plural form from the original language such as (cactus and cacti). So I have to agree that a forum X 2 = two fora.

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Stumbled upon this discussion after mentioning 'fora' on a football fans website Forum. Bearing in mind that the British Isles have been conquered many times over the millenia(or should it be milleniums?) our language has evolved using various elements from each of the conquerors ; eg 'a la carte'. We often use the adage ' when in Rome do as the Romans would do' . Therefore should the 'Roman' plural of forum not be used ; ie fora?

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I've looked a trailer for the "2012". I was interested in this theme.
Please advise me a good site on this topic.
And what do you think about the end of the world 2012.


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That's an amusing question. Does the side that he takes automatically become less valid?
In all seriousness, why even acknowledge his existence? He's already deemed himself irrelevant by interjecting pointless drivel into a serious discussion. Who are we to grant him any more credence than he gives himself?

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Just for kicks, whose side are you on Kevin?

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Name (supplied), that is a very informative link. Here is another with the etymologies of each meaning of 'stamina' together:

I think 'stamina' could be the poster-child for the etymological fallacy.

(As for you, Kevin E, I refer you to hot4teacher's recent foray into Old English.)

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Why don't you two just go & get a room?

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Name (supplied),

For one so admittedly fond of the sarcastic you are surprisingly blind to the sardonic.

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Douglas, I object to your supposition that simply because people are dead, famous, and considered intelligent, they are somehow wiser than people whose wisdom you have little basis to gauge.

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Herein lies the evolution of "stamina" from it's Latin origin "st?men":
It's not entirely clear from the above, but I believe that this usage mutated separately from the "stamen" of a plant.
Actually, I wonder if "stamen" mutated at all. I can imagine the person studying flowers looking at the small strand within a flower and thinking, "that looks like a thread, I think I'll name it using the Latin word for 'thread.'"

Again, following a simplistic system would be the ideal. According to the rules of English (ha, like English has rules, better to call them "guidelines"), the plural of "stamen" should be "stamens" and not "stamina." Otherwise, when we speak of the "stamina of flowers," how do others know if we speak of their ability to thrive, or the protrusions within them? (See, the points are so boring without the spice of sarcasm.)

"I know that we won’t go back to speaking the original forms of the English language, but that doesn’t mean that I cannot feel the need to maintain the language that many hold to be correct."
This is what I find ridiculous, and therefore, deserving of ridicule:
Imagine that the entire history and the entire future of language is a long, constantly morphing line. You've decided that this line should stop at a particular point, simply because you exist there. That's rather arbitrary, and supremely arrogant, isn't it?

Douglas, I object to your supposition that simply because people are dead, famous, and considered intelligent, they are somehow wiser than living people to whom you have little cause to know the wisdom of.

hot4teacher, I need to inform you that you've given me all of the ammunition I need to quite effectively ream you, and a strong desire to do so, but I'd like to keep such invective off of a forum dedicated to intellectual topics.

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Douglas, the word stamina (for endurance) is the same word as stamina (for the plural of stamen). Somewhere along the way, the English language decided that stamina would be a measure of endurance (possibly related to the function of a stamen).

As for the use of "stamens as early as 1947", I have already stated my stance as to whether the etymology of a word or common use of a word is more correct.

"You have also missed the point of my second comment, which is that Franklin lost this particular battle with progress."

I am aware that Franklin lost that battle, I commonly use the words you mentioned. It is also interesting to see that such a genius as Benjamin Franklin could be so grossly ignored. It may just be that scientifically minded people think alike, and are always being ignored by society, despite the fact that our entire mission is to find the 'truth'. Enough of venting my frustration with society, though.

Oh and for "I sense from your remarks that you misunderstand the concept of the “etymological fallacy.” ", it wouldn't be surprising if I misunderstand the concept of the etymological fallacy, as my only knowledge of it is a vague memory of hearing it in particular contexts. My English education finished in high school, and my education in grammar/punctuation/comprehension finished in year 10, and had since included such useless education as how to decompose and analyse Brave New World, Othello, etc.

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I think we are in agreement: I favor anglicized plurals of borrowed nouns with the exception of long-established usages or specialized domains of discourse.

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