Work on regional variation in mass/count nouns?

Joseph Salmons jsalmons at WISC.EDU
Mon May 14 16:40:52 UTC 2007

Oh, good question.  I *think* the answer is no, at least today, but
that particular pattern is pretty clearly recessive and I've only
heard it a couple of times in actual usage, as opposed to roughly a
million times in anecdotes about Milwaukee/eastern Wisconsin English,
where it's usually directly connected to European immigrants.

 From what I saw (= I may have missed something), DARE doesn't note
use of this among Blacks at all, but it does give it as a French-
influenced use in Louisiana, so it might be found broadly down there.


On May 14, 2007, at 11:25 AM, Wilson Gray wrote:

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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Wilson Gray <hwgray at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Re: Work on regional variation in mass/count nouns?
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> ---------
> Is "going to wash my hairs" used by black Milwaukeans? The usual
> meaning of "hairs" in BE as I know it is "pubic hair."
> -Wilson
> On 5/14/07, Joseph Salmons <jsalmons at> wrote:
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>> 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
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