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Joined: January 3, 2012  (email not validated)
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Recent Comments

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, 5:10am

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

SteveWParker January 15, 2014, 12:04pm

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

SteveWParker July 11, 2013, 12:05pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SteveWParker January 3, 2012, 1:36am

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