Archive for the ‘Singular & plural’ Category

Tenses here, tenses there

May 12, 2014

Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky offers this passage from the Ask a Manager blog of the 12th:

Managers and the possessive tense

I have a new manager who has placed his desk in the middle of the room, and conducts all of his conference calls in a rather loud fashion. In doing so, he constantly refers to the employees (myself and my peers) as “his” — e.g. “my team,” “my testers,” “my people.”

Am I wrong to feel a bit demeaned that my new manager is placing himself as a king among the common employee? His self-placement of prominence above those that he rules is causing quite a bit of resentment amongst “we the people.”

Elizabeth reports that this is otherwise an excellent blog (offering good advice on managing), but possessive tense is nonsensical as a technical term of grammar.


software development

September 19, 2011

The initial find, by Megan O’Neil and me a little while ago, while we were looking for something totally different:

Besides VirtualBox, there are in fact quite a number of virtualization software in the market such as VMware Workstation, Microsoft’s Windows Virtual PC (for Win7) and Virtual PC 2007 (for Vista or XP).

In the market, there are a lot of software that claims itself capable of boosting the PC performance. (link)

It takes several steps to get to these two usages for software.



July 28, 2011

From Chris Waigl (in Fairbanks AK), two photos of Arctic ruminants:

LARS is the Large Animal Research Station at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. Photo by Chris.

This photo is on a card from Greatland Graphics in Anchorage. The linguistic hook comes in the text on the card:


More on Google+

July 17, 2011

This time (earlier, here and here) in the webcomic Cyanide and Happiness (hat tip to Jeff Shaumeyer in Facebook):

A note about the webcomic, and then some notes about the idiom everybody and his brother.


A pain in the grammatical butt

June 21, 2011

The English word buttocks presents a problem for speakers: in the standard language, it’s both formally plural (with final /s/) and grammatically plural (rejects singular determiners like a, takes plural verb agreement: *a buttocks, Kim’s buttocks were/*was perfectly symmetrical). However, buttocks plays a double role semantically:

it denotes a matched pair of body-parts (NOAD2’s definition for buttock: “either of the two round fleshy parts that form the lower rear area of a human trunk”; buttocks gets only a subentry here: “the rump of an animal”); this is buttock, roughly ‘ass-cheek’, seen in left buttock vs. right buttock

and it denotes the two as a unit — roughly, ‘ass, butt, bottom, behind, backside, rear end, …’ (for which I’ll use the gloss ‘butt’) — in which case it acts somewhat like a plurale tantum (cf. pants), plural formally and grammatically, but singular in reference, and somewhat like formally plural singular nouns (shingles the disease, linguistics, etc. — there are several subtypes of these, well studied)

How to reconcile this double role?



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