Another one bites the dust?

Beverly Flanigan flanigan at OHIO.EDU
Thu Sep 6 16:58:06 UTC 2007

And did anyone else just hear an NPR reporter refer to Luciano
Paparazzi?!?  Oh dear.

At 12:42 PM 9/6/2007, you wrote:
>---------------------- Information from the mail header
>Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>Poster:       "Arnold M. Zwicky" <zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU>
>Subject:      Re: Another one bites the dust?
>On Sep 6, 2007, at 9:03 AM, Gerald Cohen wrote:
> > I've often heard "a phenomena" and "a criteria,"  and last night on
> > the news someone spoke of "a paparazzi." We deal here with a
> > tendency (not a law, though, of course) to shift the plural to the
> > singular. I've noticed many more examples over the years, but they
> > don't come to mind at the moment.  Maybe it's time to compile them.
>from Garner's DMAU (1998: 494):
>phenomenon. Pl. phenomena... Several errors occur. First, and perhaps
>most commonly, the plural form is increasingly misused as a singular—
>e.g.: ... "No_ social phenomena_ [read _phenomenon_] highlights the
>change better than the explosive growth of religious cults"...
>Chicago Trib.
>Second, more strangely, the term _phenomenon_ is sometimes mistakenly
>used as a plural—e.g.: "[T ]hese irregularities could explain several
>_phenomenon_ [read _phenomena_] in the earth including the well-known
>jerkiness in the planet's rotational rate" ... N.Y. Times
>i got ca. 333 hits for “several phenomenon” on 2/23/07, mostly in
>scientific contexts.
>in fact, i believe that all possible patterns (except for the
>reversed pattern, sg. phenomena, pl. phenomenon) can be found:
>A1.  sg. phenomenon, pl. phenomena
>A2.  sg. phenomenon, pl. phenomenon [as above -- zero plural]
>A3.  sg. phenomenon, pl. phenomenons [regularization]
>B1.  sg. phenomena, pl. phenomena [spread of pl. to sg. -- zero plural]
>B2.  sg. phenomena, pl. phenomenas [spread of pl. to sg. plus
>if that weren't complicated enough, some people have more than one
>and, in my experience, different lexemes don't necessarily show the
>same pattern(s); "criterion" doesn't necessarily have the same pattern
>(s) as "phenomenon".
>a nice topic for further study, but i have to warn you that just
>asking people what form they use in particular contexts is probably
>not the way to go.
>The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list