Work on regional variation in mass/count nouns?

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Mon May 14 16:25:19 UTC 2007

Is "going to wash my hairs" used by black Milwaukeans? The usual
meaning of "hairs" in BE as I know it is "pubic hair."


On 5/14/07, Joseph Salmons <jsalmons at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Joseph Salmons <jsalmons at WISC.EDU>
> Subject:      Work on regional variation in mass/count nouns?
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> A striking and even stereotyped feature of Upper Midwestern English
> is the use of what most of us have as count nouns as mass nouns and
> vice versa. Here in Madison 'a scissor' or 'a scissors' is utterly
> common, while 'going to wash my hairs' is a stereotype of Milwaukee,
> but actually used. (These two are often regarded as Germanisms, a
> possibility noted in DARE, for example.) There appear to be some
> other regional differences -- like 'let's go have a beer' vs. 'let's
> go have some beers' -- where the latter is the norm here (and in the
> East?), but only the former was familiar to me growing up in the South.
> In looking around for literature on this, I haven't found anything
> that treats such differences generally as a regional pattern. DARE
> has a few mentions for particular entries, but only a really brief
> note in the intro about it. In the ads-l archives, folks touch on
> this occasionally for particular words, but I don't see much broader
> discussion there either. Arnold Zwicky's handout on "Counting Chad"
> gives examples along the way to providing what looks like the best
> account of what's going on linguistically with this, but naturally
> doesn't focus systematically on regional differences.
> Surely there's more out there in the published lit, right? And surely
> folks have lots of examples of this, right?
> Thanks for any suggestions,
> Joe
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

All say, "How hard it is that we have to die"---a strange complaint to
come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
                                              -Sam'l Clemens
The tongue has no bones, yet it breaks bones.

                                           Rumanian proverb

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list