singular debris?

Beverly Flanigan flanigan at OAK.CATS.OHIOU.EDU
Thu Jul 22 17:15:57 UTC 1999

More common are "a group of people are going..." or "a bunch of things were
done"--and I too get funny looks from my prescriptivist students when I,
increasingly a real speaker, speak thus(ly).

At 10:34 AM 7/22/99 -0400, you wrote:
>For real speakers, agreement is much more often with the "sense" than with
>the traditional form. "A gob of guys are in the other room." I would have
>to be threatened to say "A gob of guys is..." (to agree with singular
>dInIs (not always a real speaker, having been successfully thrreatened from
>time to time)
>>On Wed, 21 Jul 1999 17:53:49 -0500 Pafra & Scott Catledge
>><scplc at GS.VERIO.NET> writes:
>>>That usage is more of a limited count noun than a plural.  I do not
>>>that you would hear two debris anymore than you would two guts; you
>>>hear "he's got lots of guts" as an alternative to "a lot of guts."
>>>----- Original Message -----
>>>From: Arnold Zwicky <zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU>
>>>Sent: Tuesday, July 20, 1999 9:38 AM
>>>Subject: Re: singular debris?
>>>> barbara need asks when DEBRIS became singular.  i've used
>>>> it all my life as a mass noun, hence as singular in its
>>>> agreement pattern.  and i don't recall ever having heard/seen
>>>> it used as a plural count noun; LOTS OF DEBRIS WERE SCATTERED
>>>> ON THE BEACH makes me break out all over in asterisks, in fact.
>>Lots of junk were scattered on the beach vs.
>>Lots of junk was scattered on the beach...
>>("of junk," "of debris," or "of things" is irrelevant.)
>>The subject of "scattered" is "lots."
>>Plural:  Is it Lot 1 of junk, Lot 2 of junk, ... Lot n of junk?
>>Singular:  the "lots of junk" considered as one object, as in
>>        "ham and eggs is my favorite breakfast."
>Dennis R. Preston
>Professor of Linguistics
>Department of Linguistics and Languages
>Michigan State University
>East Lansing MI 48824-1027 USA
>preston at
>Office: (517)353-0740
>Fax: (517)432-2736

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