Peter A. McGraw pmcgraw at LINFIELD.EDU
Tue Apr 15 15:42:23 UTC 2003

As discussed on this list awhile ago, "Folks" has undergone the same
evolution at about the same time, and I still react to it the way Arnold
did to "seven troops."  ("Huh?  Can they do that?!!")  Only troop(s) seems
to have gone a step further, since I'm sure I haven't heard *"one folk."

Peter Mc.

--On Monday, April 14, 2003 7:56 PM -0700 Arnold Zwicky
<zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU> wrote:

> i was startled to hear, on NPR's Sunday Morning Edition yesterday, the
> news that "seven troops" had been rescued in iraq.  "troops" is for me
> (and, from a quick review of the big reference grammars, rather more
> generally) formally plural but uncountable. (nobody can say "only one
> troop was captured.")  so how had the writers fallen into this?
> now, *i* would have said "seven soldiers", but i see from the New
> York Times writeup this morning what the problem was: there were
> five soldiers ("Army soldiers", actually) and two pilots.  so
> "soldier" would have been understood in its narrow sense, as opposed
> to "sailor", "marine", and "pilot" (or perhaps "flier").  the NYT
> described them as "prisoners of war", neatly evading the vocabulary
> problem.
> "servicemen" used to work for the purpose, but that was when the
> troops in question were in fact male.  i suppose "servicepeople",
> clunky though it is, would do.  "members of the armed services" says
> it exactly right, but i can't see that expression sweeping the nation.
> arnold (zwicky at

                               Peter A. McGraw
                   Linfield College   *   McMinnville, OR
                            pmcgraw at

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