OK. The link was a good discussion. Thanks, foilman!
I have two things to say on the subject.
1) LEGO is concerned about trademark erosion, and they are trying to prevent people referring to locking bits of plastic as legos. Once that is firmly entrenched without them defending their trademark, then LEGO bricks can go the way of the Zipper slide fastener. So to really
resist their attempts to shape the language, you need to refer to their product improperly: "Hey, these don't fit together very well." *Looks at the bits of plastic* "That's because there are Mega Bloks legos mixed in with the LEGO legos--sorry about that."
2) LEGO is generally treated as a mass noun in Europe, but is not treated that way consistently in North America. I'm sympathetic to both, but when Lego is used to refer to the pieces our family's usage tends toward the singular noun. I think that's because the most common usages are "Pick up your Legos" and "I need some more blue Legos to finish my xxxx. Can I get some from your yyyy?" In these cases, the pieces are definitely being talked about in a countable, individually manipulated objects. We rarely refer to them as bricks.
I'm having to do a mini-blitz here to ketchup, so hopefully I won't see these same comments later on, but. . .First: regarding the fact that "Lego" is a brand name.
Here's an old Texas joke. (This works best when spoken with a strong Texas drawl.)
A man walks into a diner and sits at the counter.
Waitress: "What can I get you?"
Man: "A coke."
Waitress: "What flavor?"
This is funny (and accurate) because in small-town Texas, people refer to all carbonated beverages as "cokes" (hence the lower-case "c") and you just have to be specific about what flavor you want: an Orange Crush, a Dr. Pepper, or, for that matter, a Coca-Cola.
I thought of this because of the discussion about the Lego company's concern about losing its brand. I haven't seen the Coca-Cola company suffer legal issues in Texas yet, but I'm sure they've worked hard at protecting their brand. (Although I'm sure they had to distribute lots of Xeroxed memos to educate their employees, distribute Band-Aid Brand Adhesive Strips to the employees they had to beat up over this, and consume a lot of Kleenex Brand Facial Tissues to the executives who cried a lot of tears out of stress.) Second: regarding the pluralization of "Lego".
Some people have commented that "Legos" isn't a word because "Lego" is already plural, like "sand" or "water". How many of you out there have heard people talk about having "50 e-mails in my inbox"? This one has been like fingernails on a chalkboard to me since I started hearing it a decade or two ago. I don't think you can have 50 e-mails any more than you can have 50 mails delivered by the mailman. You can have sand, water, mail, and e-mail, but you can't have sands, waters, mails, or e-mails. (Unless you're talking about classes or categories, such as "sands from five different beaches of the world", which is not the usage we're talking about here.)
I have always said, "I have 50 e-mail messages in my inbox." I guess this is analogous to saying "I have 50 Lego bricks".Third: regarding the wheelbarrow.
I don't remember who posted the picture of the wheelbarrow and asked what people call it, but so far in my mini-blitz, I haven't seen any other name for it (other than snarky responses).
I'm hoping it'll be addressed again in an upcoming post. I'm curious what the author had intended, because at the moment, I don't have a clue what else it would be called other than "wheelbarrow".
My brother took a college linguistics class from a professor who specialized in regional dialects. One fun thing he did in his classes was to have his students read a short paragraph, and based on the way they pronounced certain words, he could generally identify within 100 miles or so where in the US that person grew up. (When my brother did the exercise, the professor correctly recognized that my brother grew up in a military family that traveled extensively, and he could identify several of the places we had lived.)
Another fun thing he did in the class was show pictures of common objects (such as the wheelbarrow) and ask students to write down what they were called. Some of them included:
- a bottle containing a carbonated beverage
- the valve-like device attached to the side of your house that you might attach a garden hose to
- a paper container that the grocery store puts your purchases into so you can carry them out
Naturally, each of these had more names than people realized.