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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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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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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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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"?

DamonTarlaei March 3, 2006, 7:17pm

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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...


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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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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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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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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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.

porsche January 31, 2010, 11:55am

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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.

porsche October 10, 2010, 3:29pm

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

a native german speaker :-)

curious November 10, 2007, 9:16am

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Regarding: "As far as I am aware, the etymological fallacy describes, basically, the necessity for words to hold their original meanings."

I'm sorry, hot4teacher, but the exact opposite is true. The "etymological fallacy" describes the fact that words do NOT hold their original meanings. You're certainly free to believe that they SHOULD hold onto their original meanings, but labelling that belief "etymological fallacy" would be incorrect. That's why it's called a fallacy. It is an agreement in etymological academic circles that such a belief is wrong.

porsche September 23, 2009, 11:30am

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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.

tumtitum May 11, 2010, 5:32am

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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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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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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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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.

Jdtsquire February 8, 2010, 8:33am

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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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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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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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Oh, it's fine is it? Well, I'm glad it's fine that you told me to "get the fuck out" over a misunderstanding that you could have prevented by noting the time stamps of the posts.
In that case, I think it's just fine if whatever I say happens to be insulting to you. That's part of free speech too, after all.
I'm also glad that your atheism is somehow relevant to your belief in free speech and/or your lack of regret in voicing your opinion.

Back on topic... exactly how is it changed for the worse? Seems to me that using "forums" as the plural of "forum," and doing the same for similar words, is the best way to avoid mutilation of English, since that is the most common method of pluralizing in English.

bjhagerman September 23, 2009, 9:20am

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"I’ve (and you have) provided several examples of how modifying English can be useless, or even changing it for the worse. I don’t see how the use of ‘forums’ instead of ‘fora’ could possibly benefit the English language, other than making it easier for people who are ill-educated or ignorant enough not to know the correct plural of words like ‘forum’."
Because, if we're going to push for unobtainable ideals, the simplest system is best? Because people should not be marked as lacking in education simply because they don't find the subject of English endlessly fascinating, and thus do not know every single rule in our hopelessly entangled language? Or, because the correct plural form in English IS "forums"? It's also "fora," but that's irrelevant to my point.
What prompted the sarcasm to which you so strenuously object is simple; you proposed to protect a language from the very process by which it became the language that you wish to protect. It's hard to point out the obvious without being sarcastic about it. It's even harder when you claim to want to preserve English in it's current state when the current state includes "forums" as a proper plural.

"I had a problem with the fact that you set out to simply take the piss at me with your sarcasm and smart-arsed attitude."
What, so my point is irrelevant just because I used sarcasm to make it? Also, I use sarcasm quite regularly in person, and frequently to make points, so I doubt that I would hesitate just because you happen to be easily offended.

bjhagerman September 23, 2009, 10:45am

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mygalwayaddress September 24, 2009, 10:43am

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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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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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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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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?

keithwilson23 December 11, 2009, 6:23pm

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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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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).

chrisallen_33 October 5, 2010, 8:20pm

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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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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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"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."


steve3 October 8, 2010, 7:33pm

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

mart August 24, 2010, 3:28am

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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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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: "... 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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"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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"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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My second post was in addition to the first. I did not refresh the site in between making the two, so I had no idea you had posted, thus your post between them had no bearing on the second post.
I tried to forestall that on my last post by refreshing before I posted; but, somehow the comment to which I'm currently responding was not visible before I posted my last comment despite the time stamps showing yours having been up for eight minutes before mine.

bjhagerman September 23, 2009, 8:03am

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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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"I agree with you 100%, as shown in my previous posts."

Except that you presumably don't agree that the etymological fallacy is a fallacy, while I do. Language change is an observed fact of all languages. It is natural and inevitable. We can all complain about it, but we can't stop it. We've been using language for thousands and thousands of years, and it has been changing all that time. If language change was bad, then how can we still communicate.

goofy September 23, 2009, 9:51am

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I sense from your remarks that you misunderstand the concept of the “etymological fallacy.”

In any event, simply citing an example–stamina–does not an argument make. Moreover, to advocate for ‘stamina’ as a plural for ‘stamen’ undermines the case for keeping to Latin plurals, since it can be easily confused with the same word in the sense of ‘endurance.’ I notice that Merriam-Webster lists ‘stamens’ as the preferred plural as early as 1947, and labels the plural form ‘stamina’ as “now rare.”

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

douglas.bryant September 24, 2009, 12:19am

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

mygalwayaddress September 24, 2009, 4:17pm

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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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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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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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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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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.


vianessa27 October 1, 2009, 4:09pm

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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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@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.

Warsaw Will January 14, 2014, 12:18pm

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

Anonymous September 26, 2007, 6:15pm

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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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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!

charliemyall October 5, 2010, 3:59pm

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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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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.

ctiney January 27, 2011, 3:15pm

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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.!)

nigel.pindar March 3, 2011, 1:36pm

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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.

wills.paul February 16, 2011, 10:36pm

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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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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.

snotfjold December 18, 2009, 7:53am

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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

Madwitch November 16, 2012, 11:08am

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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.

The AMAZING Dik Shuttle March 24, 2011, 1:16pm

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

SR May 23, 2014, 3:03pm

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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.

SteveWParker May 24, 2014, 9:10am

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

Skeeter Lewis May 24, 2014, 10:52am

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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.

Skeeter Lewis May 24, 2014, 10:58am

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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:

Shouldn't that URL be I mean, it *is* the NJCL after all. :-)


Jack January 5, 2008, 8:12am

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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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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.

Joe King October 11, 2011, 12:55pm

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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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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." :)

striki.hardee February 25, 2010, 12:39pm

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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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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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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.

david.cuthill January 26, 2010, 7:21am

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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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"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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"My second post was in addition to the first. I did not refresh the site in between making the two, so I had no idea you had posted, thus your post between them had no bearing on the second post."

I see, that's fine.

"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."

At no point did I (nor do I) expect that my ranting would produce any change whatsoever, I am simply voicing my opinion. I said "If I could, I would... ".

I do believe that it's an ineffective method, and consequently believe that there is no need to continue to alter the already mutilated language that is English. I see no point in changing things for the worse, and, as I eluded to earlier, I am certain that my opinion will not enforce any change whatsoever. I am, however, an atheist and believe strongly in free speech, which is why I hold no regrets in voicing my opinion.

chrisallen_33 September 23, 2009, 8:21am

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Yes     No