Archive for the ‘Singular & plural’ Category

“Hash Brown Built-In”

February 9, 2015

On Facebook, this photo:

(#1)

Jeff Shaumeyer wondered:

(1) Does “hashbrowns” really have a common singular form, and is this it?

(Bob Boutwell amplified on this, saying that “Hashbrown potatoes” is commonly used on menus, but he’d never seen “hashbrown” used as a singular noun.)

And Robert Coren asked:

(2) And what’s a “hash brown built-in”, anyway?

I’ll have answers, but there’s a good bit of background to get through.

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Data on xkcd

February 6, 2015

On Language Log, a posting of today’s xkdc, #1483 on Quotative Like, posted by Geoff Pullum under the title “Linguists get tough on promoting language change”. And then from Mike Pope, a pointer to an earlier xkcd of linguistic interest that I’d missed:

One of Randall Munroe’s cartoons on how to annoy people.

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.

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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.

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muskox(en)

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:

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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.

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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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