Irregular/foreign plurals (Forums vs. Fora)

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Irregular/foreign plurals (Forums vs. Fora)

Postby Carpe Clunes » Wed Oct 08, 2008 12:55 am UTC

This is now a discussion of irregular plurals in general. When borrowed words "should" retain foreign plural forms, when it's "okay" for a formerly plural noun to become singular or noncount, etc.

Ok... for those that want to see whence my passion for this topic comes, please follow the link, below.
http://apps.facebook.com/nations/forums/topic?t=1797

Now...
I have tremendous respect for the xkcd web comic... please let me make this clear before my first post looks like some form of heresy...
However, I couldn't help but notice the website, and its url use the word "forums"...
It was actually this error that lead me to sign up, however, upon checking my inbox I was met with an e-mail from "fora@...".
Is this some sign that the site owner has seen the error in his ways, and chosen to repent in some incomplete way? Or is this simply an unlikely disparity caused by a decision not to change the url for the fora, nor to change the word in the link on the main page?

Just... so I'm clear.

Thanks for your time.
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Re: The most rediculous question of all. (Forums vs. Fora)

Postby ZLVT » Wed Oct 08, 2008 1:30 am UTC

If you go to fora.xkcd.com it also works. Default is forums.xkcd.com but both work.

EDIT: before gmalivuk unleashes upon you his grammatical knowledge. Formally the plural in English of regular nous is made by adding -(e)s. Hence the English word 'forum', which was taken form the Latin word 'forum' takes 'forums' as its plural. This is officially* accepted. However, since the word was borrowed from Latin, and maintained its original form, some people (like myself) also choose to stick to the original plural form. In fact on a bad day I may even be tempeted to use the accusative and dative for fun. So, while the Latin plural is often favoured by the educated, particularly those who have studied classics, the -(e)s plural is also completely correct, if somewhat painful to see.

*English has no universal accademy of language/science to regulate and decree official usage, so "officially" means by the general consensus of educated English speakers.
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Re: The most rediculous question of all. (Forums vs. Fora)

Postby Sir_Elderberry » Wed Oct 08, 2008 3:00 am UTC

"The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don't just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary. " --James D. Nicoll

In other words, the Romans would have said fora. We still can, if we like. But since we're the linguistic equivalent of the Borg, we can assimilate at will too. I still say forums quite often; it feels more natural. We don't feel the need to use, as someone said above, all the other noun declensions from Latin--insisting on obscure pluralization doesn't make a ton of sense. Fora is growing on me, but I'd never call it more or less correct than forums. But a grammar-nerd I am not, so perhaps this view will be quickly denounced.
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Re: The most rediculous question of all. (Forums vs. Fora)

Postby goofy » Wed Oct 08, 2008 4:03 am UTC

Forums is correct and much more common than fora. Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage doesn't even have an entry for this issue. The OED has a citation for forums from 1647, and nothing for fora. I'm guessing that fora is a much later innovation based on someone's love of Latin.

Are there any usage books that recommend fora?

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Re: The most ridiculous question of all. (Forums vs. Fora)

Postby Carpe Clunes » Wed Oct 08, 2008 4:18 am UTC

First of all... I'd like to make note that I am elated that the link; fora.xkcd.com is functional.

Secondly, I'd like to make clear that I make this statement in its infinite obscurity, simply because after reading the sum of the writer's work, I feel a certain degree of personality has bled through to me. Given this semblance of knowledge I was simply surprised not to be met with the purest form.
Basically, seeing the mainstream version of the word broke my expectancy.

Given the overall personality of this site, I felt it an appropriate suggestion... anywhere else I wouldn't bother. Hehe...

Oh, and to goofy... no... to my knowledge there aren't...
But if we carry on refusing to use original plurals it's only a matter of time before we're forced to accept words like matrixes/matrixs and octopuses/octopuss... or even the famous, well-intentioned screw up of "platypi"... which was used at the beginning of the film Dogma.
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Re: The most ridiculous question of all. (Forums vs. Fora)

Postby ZLVT » Wed Oct 08, 2008 4:23 am UTC

Classic film though, and the even better plural or octipus is octipodes being of Greek extraction.
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Re: The most ridiculous question of all. (Forums vs. Fora)

Postby goofy » Wed Oct 08, 2008 4:32 am UTC

Carpe Clunes wrote:Oh, and to goofy... no... to my knowledge there aren't...
But if we carry on refusing to use original plurals it's only a matter of time before we're forced to accept words like matrixes/matrixs and octopuses/octopuss


And then what will happen?

If you care about the "purest forms" of words, then you should treat all these words as plural: agenda, bacteria, bus, candelabra, erotica, graffiti, paraphernalia, trivia, opera.

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Re: The most ridiculous question of all. (Forums vs. Fora)

Postby ZLVT » Wed Oct 08, 2008 4:41 am UTC

what? Since when is agenda plural? And we all do treat bacteria as plural. Medically, it's a single becterium. Opera is a singular word meaning [public] work(s)/labour and erotica is of Greek origin so I'd have to check that one.
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Re: The most ridiculous question of all. (Forums vs. Fora)

Postby Simbera » Wed Oct 08, 2008 5:56 am UTC

I get the impression that it's arisen from a running joke, so there are still vestiges of the system from before the joke started. I haven't been here that long though, so that's just a guess.

For my two cents: I use fora all the time when referring to the xkcd fora, and occasionally when referring to others, but forums is so widely accepted I would never say that it's incorrect. That said, I do try to use the nonstandard pluralisations where applicable, as just standardising everything to ~(e)s still seems very clunky to me.

As a side note, the guy in the thread mentions pluralising the Toyota car as priora - because it's a proper noun, and in effect a neologism, they can pluralise it however they want, can't they? Much like the computer hardware is pluralised as mouses, not mice.

Otherwise I may have to go by a slab of Coronae to drown my sorrows.

Oh, and I just saw that: technically, the singular of agenda is agendum, I believe, but it's not really in common use any more.

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Re: The most ridiculous question of all. (Forums vs. Fora)

Postby phlip » Wed Oct 08, 2008 6:18 am UTC

If I recall correctly, in Latin, an agendum is basically a task, agenda are a bunch of tasks. However, in English, an agenda is a bunch of tasks (or, more commonly, a list of tasks), and agendas are a bunch of such lists.

English versions of plurals don't bother me so much, though I do prefer the pedantic original-language ones. Mistaken overcorrections, though, like "octopi" and friends, do grate a bit. Either go with the mainstream ("octopuses") or be pedantic and get it right ("octopodes")... don't get it wrong, from mistaken pedantry, and then act all smug. (Or, get it wrong, but get it so completely wrong that it's clear you're just joking... I've been known to use "ninjae" on occasion.)

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Re: The most ridiculous question of all. (Forums vs. Fora)

Postby ZLVT » Wed Oct 08, 2008 6:35 am UTC

Simbera wrote:As a side note, the guy in the thread mentions pluralising the Toyota car as priora

wouldn't priUS become priI? (I don't know how 4th declention nouns like portus work)
Simbera wrote:Oh, and I just saw that: technically, the singular of agenda is agendum, I believe, but it's not really in common use any more.

Ok, my bad

I've heard "octopi" more than "octipuses". Come to think of it, I've never heard an eduacted speaker say "octipuses". Mmm, happy day when I learned that most asian languages don't have a plural form.
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Indexes and Indices

Postby Red Hal » Wed Oct 08, 2008 9:13 am UTC

On the BBC news this morning, I heard the FTSE and Dow Jones collectively referred to as indexes. I was taught that the plural was indices, but I am not too worried about the anglicised plural for a couple of reasons. Firstly, language changes, and the tendency is towards regularising plurals. Secondly, the Dow Jones, FTSE, Hang Seng and other indicators could to my mind be properly called proper nouns, and if indexes is used particularly for this case, then it causes no harm in my eyes. What are your thoughts?
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Re: Indexes and Indices

Postby ZLVT » Wed Oct 08, 2008 9:27 am UTC

we're discussing this in the forums/fora thread, but I don't know, Index in this context seems to be a new word. dort of like hang is hung with washign but hanged with condemned criminals. I'm undecided abotu this one. Though I;d obviously use indecies by default.
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Re: Indexes and Indices

Postby Red Hal » Wed Oct 08, 2008 9:34 am UTC

That's odd, I did a search for both words before posting. I'll nip on over and carry on the conversation there.
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Re: The most ridiculous question of all. (Forums vs. Fora)

Postby Red Hal » Wed Oct 08, 2008 9:42 am UTC

goofy wrote:
Carpe Clunes wrote:Oh, and to goofy... no... to my knowledge there aren't...
But if we carry on refusing to use original plurals it's only a matter of time before we're forced to accept words like matrixes/matrixs and octopuses/octopuss


And then what will happen?

If you care about the "purest forms" of words, then you should treat all these words as plural: agenda, bacteria, bus, candelabra, erotica, graffiti, paraphernalia, trivia, opera.



Wait. What? I DO treat all those words as plural, although I accept that at least two of those - agenda and bus - are in common usage as singular forms. Agenda is now used to mean "The list of agenda", and insisting that "there are a bus coming" is carrying pedantry too far in my humble opinion; although the original meaning of everyone/everything was plural, it is no longer used in that sense and has attained a separate - and singular - meaning in its own right.


On Edit: Can I add panini to that list? If I want a toasted sandwich in a ciabatta roll, I ask for a panino.
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Re: The most ridiculous question of all. (Forums vs. Fora)

Postby Bobber » Wed Oct 08, 2008 9:59 am UTC

Red Hal wrote:
On Edit: Can I add panini to that list? If I want a toasted sandwich in a ciabatta roll, I ask for a panino.


I went to Rome, and I can tell you that the Romans use 'panini' as a singular as well.

On the other hand, it was pretty tasty. I ate it at the Area Sacra. Kittens everywhere!
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Re: The most ridiculous question of all. (Forums vs. Fora)

Postby ZLVT » Wed Oct 08, 2008 10:59 am UTC

the little island of ruins inhabited by an isolated population of cats? There was foor there?
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Re: The most ridiculous question of all. (Forums vs. Fora)

Postby Red Hal » Wed Oct 08, 2008 11:13 am UTC

While we are O/T, I found Rome to be thoroughly depressing. Well, not depressing per se, it just had a pervasive sense of decay; a society that once was great and is now a shadow of its former self, building on top of ruins and partying into obscurity.
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Re: Indexes and Indices

Postby goofy » Wed Oct 08, 2008 1:12 pm UTC

indexes is just as old as indices, if not older. The earliest cite in the OED for indexes is 1606. The earliest cite for indices is 1674.

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Re: The most ridiculous question of all. (Forums vs. Fora)

Postby goofy » Wed Oct 08, 2008 6:50 pm UTC

Red Hal wrote:
goofy wrote:If you care about the "purest forms" of words, then you should treat all these words as plural: agenda, bacteria, bus, candelabra, erotica, graffiti, paraphernalia, trivia, opera.


Wait. What? I DO treat all those words as plural, although I accept that at least two of those - agenda and bus - are in common usage as singular forms. Agenda is now used to mean "The list of agenda", and insisting that "there are a bus coming" is carrying pedantry too far in my humble opinion; although the original meaning of everyone/everything was plural, it is no longer used in that sense and has attained a separate - and singular - meaning in its own right.


Carpe Clunes implied that a word has a purest or original form, meaning the form in its original language, and that's how we should use it in English. I was just taking that view to its logical conclusion.

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Re: The most ridiculous question of all. (Forums vs. Fora)

Postby RealGrouchy » Wed Oct 08, 2008 8:14 pm UTC

You've missed the boat by about two years.

Locking this thread as redundant.

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Re: Indexes and Indices

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Oct 08, 2008 8:26 pm UTC

I suspect that "indices" is merely an attempt at "re"-Latinizing a language that didn't come from Latin in the first place.
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Re: The most ridiculous question of all. (Forums vs. Fora)

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Oct 08, 2008 8:33 pm UTC

annnnnd, Unlocking this thread because it's in a different forum discussing a different issue (linguistics of irregular plurals)
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Re: Irregular/foreign plurals (Forums vs. Fora)

Postby Dingbats » Wed Oct 08, 2008 9:05 pm UTC

People, please. It's not weird or wrong or unusual to pluralise loan words as if they were native. That's what languages all over the world normally do when they borrow words. "Forum" is an English word when used in an English context, so it's just natural to pluralise it "forums", just like the equally English word "dog" gets the plural "dogs".

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Re: Irregular/foreign plurals (Forums vs. Fora)

Postby Simbera » Thu Oct 09, 2008 1:10 am UTC

With "indices" in particular, I think it may have been simply because going from an X to a Z sounds rather grating. It's not quite as bad with, say, boxes, but I think that's because of the vowel used (sexes, while perfectly legitimate, sounds grating to me for the same reason indexes does)

The faux-Latin way of doing it possibly just sounded better than any other way of doing it.

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Re: The most ridiculous question of all. (Forums vs. Fora)

Postby Carpe Clunes » Thu Oct 09, 2008 2:02 am UTC

goofy wrote:Carpe Clunes implied that a word has a purest or original form, meaning the form in its original language, and that's how we should use it in English. I was just taking that view to its logical conclusion.


Awww! Wow!
I feel listened to!

ZLVT wrote:
Simbera wrote:As a side note, the guy in the thread mentions pluralising the Toyota car as priora

wouldn't priUS become priI? (I don't know how 4th declention nouns like portus work)


No, it is Priora... I went on a quest with a friend to find out... ironically, I believe there's another car (in the singular) called the Priora.

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Damn it... Well... I went to that thread and voted.


Basically, to sum up I believe we should be using the original plurals... and there needs to be awareness publicity run about "octopi"... It's beginning to grate me when people use it.
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Re: The most ridiculous question of all. (Forums vs. Fora)

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Oct 09, 2008 2:27 am UTC

Carpe Clunes wrote:Basically, to sum up I believe we should be using the original plurals.

We should use the original "plural forms"? Or we should use the original "plurales formas"?

How far is it reasonable to take it, in other words?
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Re: Irregular/foreign plurals (Forums vs. Fora)

Postby ZLVT » Thu Oct 09, 2008 2:53 am UTC

Didn't we cover this in being too correct? even so, I think we can agree that introducing features not (lo longer?) used in English like adjective-noun agreement is overkill. Latin plurals aren't using a new feature of the language, since English already uses plurals (doing it in Japansese would be overkill) but it is doing it in a non-native way
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Re: Irregular/foreign plurals (Forums vs. Fora)

Postby Carpe Clunes » Thu Oct 09, 2008 4:49 am UTC

Gmalivuk...
You, yourself use the word fora in your description of the rules for this sub-forum.
This is one of the easier (and in this case, more prominant) plurals to show off. Hence, my bringing it up.
I'm making an effort to learn the proper plurals so that when I have children I can teach them the english language in its limited majesty... so they'll never say "octopi", like I once did.

I've already stated my main reason for bringing this up... and that is because I was surprised, if nothing else, that Randall had not already enforced this idea.
All I can say is that I'm slightly more disappointed that fora is not in full (if not common) use here, than if I were to notice it, elsewhere.
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Re: Irregular/foreign plurals (Forums vs. Fora)

Postby Velifer » Thu Oct 09, 2008 4:48 pm UTC

So to be pedantic and prescriptive, shouldn't it be "forum" and "forums," but "forum" and "fora" since we typically italicize foreign words? This could also serve as a great indicator of pretentiousness: any time you see an author italicise "bus," throw the tract in the fire.
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Re: Irregular/foreign plurals (Forums vs. Fora)

Postby RealGrouchy » Fri Oct 10, 2008 12:55 am UTC

Carpe Clunes wrote:Gmalivuk...
You, yourself use the word fora in your description of the rules for this sub-forum.

...

All I can say is that I'm slightly more disappointed that fora is not in full (if not common) use here, than if I were to notice it, elsewhere.
I think forums is preferred in general usage, but on xkcd the various different alternative endings (including the odd instance of "forii") are used as part of a very old inside joke.

For example, this post is in the "Language/Linguistics" subforum of the "Numberologics, Alchemy, Linguinomics and other Academiology" forum, and I think we can all agree that a couple of those aren't exactly the 'correct' forms of those words.

tl;dr version: chill.

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Re: Irregular/foreign plurals (Forums vs. Fora)

Postby markfiend » Fri Oct 10, 2008 3:35 pm UTC

One that grinds my gears is people pluralising virus to virii -- surely virii would be the plural of virius?

Having said that, one pseudo-latinate plural that does amuse me is Elvi as the plural of Elvis. (If you're wondering why you'd need a plural of Elvis, I'm thinking in terms of Elvis impersonators.)
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Re: Irregular/foreign plurals (Forums vs. Fora)

Postby ZLVT » Fri Oct 10, 2008 4:10 pm UTC

No it isn't. The plural of Elvis would be Elves. the -i plural occurs when the word ends in -us not -is
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Re: Irregular/foreign plurals (Forums vs. Fora)

Postby goofy » Fri Oct 10, 2008 4:10 pm UTC

Latin vīrus does not have an attested plural. It is a neuter noun, so if it did have a plural, it might be vīra. Therefore, we can't talk about more than one virus. In fact, there's probably no such thing.

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Re: Irregular/foreign plurals (Forums vs. Fora)

Postby ZLVT » Fri Oct 10, 2008 4:50 pm UTC

Huh? how is a noun ending in -us ever neuter? I'm not sure on the gender of Portus, but I think it was masculine. So how do you mean? And neuter nouns have plurals too. the normal neuter plural IS -a but it would need to end in -um to be neuter.

In nom acc dat gen abl

Masculine (2nd dec.)
servus
servus
servo
servi
servo

servi
servos
servis
servorum
servis

Neuter (2nd dec.)
atrium
atrium
atrio
atrii
atrio

atria
atria
atriis
atriorum
atriis
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Re: Irregular/foreign plurals (Forums vs. Fora)

Postby goofy » Fri Oct 10, 2008 5:06 pm UTC

Huh? how is a noun ending in -us ever neuter?


Latin nouns are more complicated than just the 2 declensions you list. Other neuter nouns end in -us: corpus, genus, tempus. Here's some more info.

vīrus has no attested plural - in every bit of Latin writing we are aware of, there is no plural form for vīrus. So it might have had an incomplete paradigm.

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Re: Irregular/foreign plurals (Forums vs. Fora)

Postby ZLVT » Sat Oct 11, 2008 2:08 am UTC

I checked the dictionary:

Virus, i, n - slime, poison, virus

so is it poison in the uncountable sense or "a poison"?
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Re: Irregular/foreign plurals (Forums vs. Fora)

Postby gmalivuk » Sat Oct 11, 2008 4:42 am UTC

It first appears in English as noncount, so I suspect that's also how it was in Latin (since otherwise wouldn't we expect to have seen a plural somewhere?).

Still, though, surely there was some sort of rule into which the word *would* have fit had it been (albeit incorrectly) pluralized, right? I mean, in English we can still say words like "furnitures" and "traffics", even though those words don't really have any proper meaning as the plural of any singular count noun.
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Re: Irregular/foreign plurals (Forums vs. Fora)

Postby ZLVT » Sat Oct 11, 2008 6:14 am UTC

well "virus, i" makes it 2nd declention masculine (see servus above) so it would be viri in that case.
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Re: Irregular/foreign plurals (Forums vs. Fora)

Postby goofy » Sat Oct 11, 2008 4:14 pm UTC

ZLVT wrote:well "virus, i" makes it 2nd declention masculine (see servus above) so it would be viri in that case.


No, it's listed as neuter in Lewis and Short. It's neuter. Some say it's cognate with Sanskrit viṣa, which is neuter.
It's possible that it had a plural that was never written down, or it was a borrowed word with an incomplete paradigm, or it was a noncount noun with no plural, as gmalivuk says.


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