Lego vs. Legos: Americanism? Regionalism?

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Thu Jul 26 14:14:23 UTC 2007

On Jul 25, 2007, at 11:56 AM, James Callan wrote:

> How does the Lego vs. Legos issue break down elsewhere? National
> boundaries? Regions?

almost all this discussion has been about the contrast between "play
with Lego" and "play with Legos".  the second is clearly plural, but
the status of the first isn't clear in the context "play with ___";
it could be either singular mass (which is what most people seem to
be assuming) or zero-plural count (or ambiguous between the two).
lynne murphy's blog entry on count/mass has a relevant datum:

   One more that I forgot until I found this blog entry on the topic:
Americans play with Legos and step on a Lego, while the British play
with Lego and step on a piece of Lego or a Lego brick.

it's the "a piece of Lego".  ("a Lego brick/piece" isn't so
informative, because plural marking is usually suppressed in the
first element of compounds; "a Lego brick/piece" ought to be
available to americans who regularly say "Legos", and should be
preferred to "a Legos brick/piece".)  "a piece of Lego" looks like an
individuation of a mass noun denoting a collectivity of elements
(usually small ones); it's like "a piece of data".

the real test is the use of "Lego" as a subject, with a verb that can
show number agreement.  the question is whether british speakers say
   Lego amuses me.  (sg mass)
   Lego amuse me.  (zero-pl count, equivalent to american "Legos
amuse me")
or both.


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