A dialogue about plurals and other horrors
In a recent blog entry I used the word ‘formulas’ as (obviously) the plural of ‘formula’.
This elicited an anguished protest from an old friend:
I try not to read too many of these, since my main objective these days in this terrible world is to stay calm. But when I do (read blogs I mean), I find it distressing to discover, in one sentence, formulas for formulae (and from a classicist) and prophesy for prophecy. O tempora…
Thanks. ‘Formulas’ was deliberate (I don’t hold with fancy Latin endings when a perfectly good English one is available — forums is fine, although admittedly I wouldn’t write phenomenons — no, not Latin, I agree). But I’ll correct prophesy…
Oh tempuses, Oh moreses, as you rightly say!
I agree on forums but not formulas, although give it a few years and I will have to give in. My pet hate is the use of media as a singular. But there are plenty others (peninsular as a noun, for example – perpetrated by Sassenachs who can only ever pronounce the letter r by tacking it onto the end of a word where it doesn’t belong, as in Indiar and Asiar and Australiar and everywhere else – or even, the other day, peninsula as an adjective).
And shouldn’t it be O moses?
(He’s a Scot, of course.)
And finally I have bent his bagpipe-playing, kilt-wearing ear — Sassenachs, indeed! — by moaning about the plague of illegitimate ‘whoms’ where ‘who’ is required:
"The prime minister, whom many people suspect is determined to hang on to power…"
"David Cameron, whom I’m inclined to believe is probably a decent man at heart…"
— a kind of misplaced syntactical gentility, like a pathological aversion to the use of ‘me’, as in: "He spoke to my mother and I", "the party given by Fred and I", and so on.
And in the same grating category alongside ‘the media has’ is the same wretched abuse of ‘criteria’, hinted at earlier: "The one criteria for success in this business is…"
Me, or I, I blame that President Bush.