[Ads-l] hypercorrect pluralization of attributives

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sun Oct 30 10:49:32 EDT 2016


> On Oct 30, 2016, at 8:34 AM, Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
> 
> CNN alludes to the influence of "the Obamas factor" on the Hillary campaign.
> 
> I don't care how many Obamas there are, it's still "the Obama factor."
> 
> Maybe somebody thinks that "Obama" by default means "Pres. Obama" and
> ignores Michelle Obama, so a plural is required444
> 
> But who knows what people think?
> 
> JL

Interesting.  In nominal (noun-noun) compounds of the form A B, whether A can be plural often depends on the irregularity of the noun: 

We have a rat/*rats problem in the attic.  [even if, as is likely, more than one rat is involved]
We have a mice/mouse problem in the attic.

I'm not sure why I don't find him attractive; maybe it's the yellow-teeth factor.
We'd like to hire her, but there's the two-body problem.   
(Actually, I've heard both "the two-body problem" and "the two-bodies problem" to refer to the spousal/partner hiring dilemma in academia, as opposed to the physics problem it's a pun on.)

etc.

But "Obamas" is of course not an irregular plural.  As you say, someone must have decided it was more important to make it clear that both Obamas are involved in defining the factor than in following the default rule.  

LH


> 
> On Tue, Sep 20, 2016 at 8:27 AM, Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at gmail.com>
> wrote:
> 
>> My grandfather (b. 1884) regularly used the form "five-foot tall."  My
>> grandmother did not, IIRC.
>> 
>> JL
>> 
>> On Tue, Sep 20, 2016 at 1:14 AM, W Brewer <brewerwa at gmail.com> wrote:
>> 
>>> WG:  << True, but the polloi have annoyingly begun to say and write crap
>>> like
>>> "five-miles walk." >>
>>> WB:  Used to take ten-mile runs in the Berkeley Hills as a student.  Never
>>> been on no fancy-pants <10K run>. Prefer life in my recliner now, anyways.
>>> 
>>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>>> The American Dialect Society - https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=http-3A__www.americandialect.org&d=CwIBaQ&c=-dg2m7zWuuDZ0MUcV7Sdqw&r=wFp3X4Mu39hB2bf13gtz0ZpW1TsSxPIWYiZRsMFFaLQ&m=WPAnvTKuBEiy-Eoj-30SXsrV1VGBJpRZ_wLqgAyeCro&s=noPoBG4ebivhmrnkyK8CMdbVlOhru5pczFxdnc0sOZs&e= 
>>> 
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> --
>> "If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."
>> 
> 
> 
> 
> -- 
> "If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."
> 
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=http-3A__www.americandialect.org&d=CwIBaQ&c=-dg2m7zWuuDZ0MUcV7Sdqw&r=wFp3X4Mu39hB2bf13gtz0ZpW1TsSxPIWYiZRsMFFaLQ&m=WPAnvTKuBEiy-Eoj-30SXsrV1VGBJpRZ_wLqgAyeCro&s=noPoBG4ebivhmrnkyK8CMdbVlOhru5pczFxdnc0sOZs&e= 

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