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

goofy February 21, 2007 @ 7:52AM

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

porsche September 15, 2007 @ 7:57AM

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

Regards
a native german speaker :-)

curious November 10, 2007 @ 9:16AM

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


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

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

caterhamman November 12, 2007 @ 8:03AM

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

porsche December 21, 2008 @ 9:19AM

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Dave Rattigan says:

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

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


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

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

andyforlife January 13, 2009 @ 3:42PM

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

andyforlife January 13, 2009 @ 3:43PM

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

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

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

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

porsche January 15, 2009 @ 2:01PM

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

t.williams February 9, 2009 @ 6:59AM

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

rickdalaglio April 14, 2009 @ 8:54AM

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

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

lollilike August 15, 2009 @ 9:44PM

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

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

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

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

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

That's my 2c.

chrisallen_33 September 3, 2009 @ 3:10AM

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

porsche September 6, 2009 @ 8:44PM

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

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

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

chrisallen_33 September 7, 2009 @ 9:19AM

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

douglas.bryant September 8, 2009 @ 12:30AM

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

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

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

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

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

uno September 14, 2009 @ 9:19PM

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

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

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

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

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

chrisallen_33 September 14, 2009 @ 10:59PM

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

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

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

uno September 15, 2009 @ 12:12AM

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

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

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

chrisallen_33 September 15, 2009 @ 6:05AM

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

porsche September 15, 2009 @ 7:58AM

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

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

porsche September 15, 2009 @ 8:09AM

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Thank you for understanding, Porsche.

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

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

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

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

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

chrisallen_33 September 15, 2009 @ 9:22AM

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

ilovejimbowales September 15, 2009 @ 8:31PM

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

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

chrisallen_33 September 15, 2009 @ 8:58PM

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

First, just what is this “plural system?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

douglas.bryant September 16, 2009 @ 12:06PM

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

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

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

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

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

chrisallen_33 September 17, 2009 @ 1:29AM

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

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

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

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

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

douglas.bryant September 17, 2009 @ 8:50AM

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

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

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

chrisallen_33 September 17, 2009 @ 11:44PM

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hot4teacher,

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

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

douglas.bryant September 19, 2009 @ 12:14PM

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

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

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

goofy September 21, 2009 @ 9:21AM

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

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

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

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

chrisallen_33 September 21, 2009 @ 8:50PM

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

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

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

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

goofy September 21, 2009 @ 10:47PM

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

The ramaining words fall into three groups:

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

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

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

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

douglas.bryant September 22, 2009 @ 1:41AM

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

chrisallen_33 September 22, 2009 @ 7:15AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

goofy September 22, 2009 @ 8:22AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

chrisallen_33 September 22, 2009 @ 9:28AM

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

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

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

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

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

goofy September 22, 2009 @ 9:41AM

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

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

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

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

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

chrisallen_33 September 23, 2009 @ 1:08AM

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

bjhagerman September 23, 2009 @ 6:46AM

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

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

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

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

chrisallen_33 September 23, 2009 @ 7:03AM

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

bjhagerman September 23, 2009 @ 7:04AM

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

Wikipedia describes the term “etymological fallacy” thus:

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

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

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

douglas.bryant September 23, 2009 @ 7:33AM

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

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

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

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

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

chrisallen_33 September 23, 2009 @ 7:41AM

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

bjhagerman September 23, 2009 @ 7:49AM

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

I would interpret it a little more broadly: the original or historical usage or a word or phrase is necessarily similar to its actual present-day meaning. Not just the meaning, but how the word is used, including pluralization.

goofy September 23, 2009 @ 9:24AM

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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."

Your post that I had a problem with was made prior to any reply I had made. I had no problem with the fact that you repeated a question that I had already asked. 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.

I am a fan of free speech, but I am not a fan of taking unprovoked shots at people. I respect that you said it (at least indirectly) to me, but I would like to see you insult me face-to-face. I think you may have second thoughts then.

"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."

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'.

chrisallen_33 September 23, 2009 @ 9:32AM

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"I would interpret it a little more broadly: the original or historical usage or a word or phrase is necessarily similar to its actual present-day meaning. Not just the meaning, but how the word is used, including pluralization."

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

chrisallen_33 September 23, 2009 @ 9:34AM

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Sorry for triple posting.
When I said " repeated a question that I had already asked", I obviously meant to say "that I had already answered". Just to avoid any confusion.

chrisallen_33 September 23, 2009 @ 9:35AM

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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’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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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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"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've implied through earlier posts that I believe that the way the English language was used SHOULD be maintained. The fact that most people nowadays can barely speak our current language gives me little or no hope at all. I am not stupid. 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.

"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."

The necessity to use sarcasm to prove a point is a very popularly disliked trait in the modern world. I am almost certain that, should you see me in person, you wouldn't think to piss me off. This isn't a threat. I am merely identifying the fact that the internet holds a specious barrier for protecting you. If you talk this way in real life (as you admitted that you do) I am certain that (if at least being widely disliked) you will push someone to far, and it would be very unfortunate if that person was 200cm tall and 115kg.

Your point could have easily been made without sarcasm. There is nothing wrong with being honest. I promote honesty, and if you disagree with me then that's fine. You could have easily said "I disagree with you" rather than take the piss at me.

"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."

It seems that my post had been set out poorly. What I meant was that the etymological fallacy is a fallacy regarding "the necessity for words to hold their original meanings.". I didn't mean to say that the etymological fallacy implied that words should actually keep their original meanings. At no point did I agree or disagree with it, I simply described how/why it could also apply to punctuation/pluralization.

chrisallen_33 September 23, 2009 @ 9:30PM

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In ‘The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Linguistics,’ P. H. Matthews defines the etymological fallacy as “The notion that the ‘true’ meaning of a word is the one to be expected from its etymology.” I don’t see how this can be used as an argument on either side of this pluralization debate. No convincing case has been made here.

As for “preserving” English, people wiser than we have objected to the evolution of English usage. In 1789 Benjamin Franklin wrote to Noah Webster complaining about the then-recent formation of verbs from the substantive words ‘notice,’ advocate’ and ‘progress.’ He urged Webster: “If you should happen to be of my opinion with respect to these innovations you will use your authority in reprobating them.” (Imagine: Ben Franklin opposing innovation!) I don’t know what Webster’s response was, but all three verbs are still with us, and the language is better for it.

douglas.bryant September 23, 2009 @ 11:14PM

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"In ‘The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Linguistics,’ P. H. Matthews defines the etymological fallacy as “The notion that the ‘true’ meaning of a word is the one to be expected from its etymology.” I don’t see how this can be used as an argument on either side of this pluralization debate. No convincing case has been made here."

The true meaning of 'stamina' is 'a collective of more than one stamen', i.e. the 'true' meaning of 'stamina' is a plural, and so the etymological fallacy would describe that "the 'true' meaning of" stamina "is the one to be expected from its etymology", and, as I have just pointed out, this meaning describes a plural.

"As for “preserving” English, people wiser than we have objected to the evolution of English usage. In 1789 Benjamin Franklin wrote to Noah Webster complaining about the then-recent formation of verbs from the substantive words ‘notice,’ advocate’ and ‘progress.’ He urged Webster: “If you should happen to be of my opinion with respect to these innovations you will use your authority in reprobating them.” (Imagine: Ben Franklin opposing innovation!) I don’t know what Webster’s response was, but all three verbs are still with us, and the language is better for it."

It's good to see that someone is on my side. Benjamin Franklin. Enough said.

chrisallen_33 September 23, 2009 @ 11:23PM

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Douglas wrote
"In ‘The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Linguistics,’ P. H. Matthews defines the etymological fallacy as “The notion that the ‘true’ meaning of a word is the one to be expected from its etymology.” I don’t see how this can be used as an argument on either side of this pluralization debate. No convincing case has been made here."

OK, then don't call it the etymological fallacy. Call it the, I don't know, argument from Latin or something. The point is that it doesn't make sense to argue that words we've borrowed should be used, spelled, pluralized, declined, conjugated in the same way they were used, spelled, pluralized, declined, conjugated in the language they were borrowed from. For instance, it's a mistake to say that the "real" plural of "forum" is "fora" because that's how it was pluralized in Latin. Such a claim ignores the facts of English.

goofy September 23, 2009 @ 11:50PM

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hot4teacher:

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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goofy:

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.

douglas.bryant September 24, 2009 @ 12:26AM

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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.

chrisallen_33 September 24, 2009 @ 1:37AM

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Pffff...

mygalwayaddress September 24, 2009 @ 10:43AM

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Herein lies the evolution of "stamina" from it's Latin origin "st?men":
http://www.languagehat.com/archives/003141.php
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.

bjhagerman September 24, 2009 @ 11:41AM

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Correction:
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.

bjhagerman September 24, 2009 @ 12:31PM

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Name (supplied),

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

douglas.bryant September 24, 2009 @ 1:07PM

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

mygalwayaddress September 24, 2009 @ 4:17PM

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

http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=stamen&searchmode=none

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.)

douglas.bryant September 24, 2009 @ 5:22PM

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Just for kicks, whose side are you on Kevin?

chrisallen_33 September 25, 2009 @ 1:21AM

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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?

bjhagerman September 25, 2009 @ 5:26AM

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Hi

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.

Thanks.

vianessa27 October 1, 2009 @ 4:09PM

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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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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.

steve3 December 14, 2009 @ 7:46PM

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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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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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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."

"ForaOfCourseYouKnowTheLatinPluralDon’tYou?No?OhSorryToProveI’mOfASuperiorEducationalKLevelToYouThankYouI’llTakeYourSilenceAsASubmission."

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.

chrisallen_33 January 26, 2010 @ 8:24AM

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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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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.

chrisallen_33 January 31, 2010 @ 1:24PM

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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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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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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!

brian.terry April 16, 2010 @ 7:49AM

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Re: NONE

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”
versus
2. “not one” or “not any”.


QUESTION:
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."


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

gilgeneve May 9, 2010 @ 6:28PM

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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.

Examples:

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?

porsche May 9, 2010 @ 11:28PM

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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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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.

goofy May 11, 2010 @ 9:08AM

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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?).

chrisallen_33 May 11, 2010 @ 10:11AM

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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.

chrisallen_33 May 11, 2010 @ 10:29AM

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Re: MEDIA

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."

http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/04/12/sas-seeks-to-improve-data-mining-of-social-media/

"...social 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.

gilgeneve May 12, 2010 @ 3:27PM

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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.

itpaciga May 24, 2010 @ 10:32PM

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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?

kev.rimmer June 9, 2010 @ 7:17AM

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