Fred Shapiro fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU
Thu Jun 15 12:08:43 UTC 2000

On Wed, 14 Jun 2000 P2052 at AOL.COM wrote:

> Lately, I have observed a number of memos pluralizing the noun input (pl. inpu
> ts), which I had assumed to be a mass noun.   While the various dictionaries
> also cited verb forms, specifically -ed and -ing, none a 3rd person singular
> form (-s), thereby precluding any possible confusion between the 3rd person
> singular and the plural noun.  Is this a new trend which is applicable to
> similar nouns, such as intake (pl. intakes), output (pl. outputs), or
> feedback (pl. feedbacks)? Or is it specific to the word input?  Is this a
> specialized term (I've seen it used primarily in memos from computer literate
> military personnel .)  Or could this use possibly be a mistake that is having
> ripple effects?

The OED has "input" as a countable noun in computing as far back as 1973,
and it probably was in use in the 1940s.  In non-computer senses this was
a countable noun back to the 1700s.  I imagine that the other nouns you
mention also have a history of countable usage.

Fred R. Shapiro                             Coeditor (with Jane Garry)
Associate Librarian for Public Services     TRIAL AND ERROR: AN OXFORD
  and Lecturer in Legal Research            ANTHOLOGY OF LEGAL STORIES
Yale Law School                             Oxford University Press, 1998
e-mail: fred.shapiro at               ISBN 0-19-509547-2

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