Another one bites the dust?

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri Sep 7 00:31:12 UTC 2007

At 5:05 PM -0400 9/6/07, Wilson Gray wrote:
>Back in the day, there was in Saint Louis a picture show for the
>colored with the name, "Criterion." My impression is that I've heard
>and read "criteria" used as a singular since the Criterion closed
>I worked at the circ desk of Harvard's Widener Library for a couple of
>dekkids and I heard "I'm an alumni" (and, therefore, eligible for
>special treatment) used *exclusively* - perhaps I exaggerate, but not
>much - by both sexes, regardless of race, creed, color, previous
>condition of servitude, or sexual orientation. Each time, my mind
>screamed, "It's 'alumnus' / 'alumna,' you non-classically-educated
>ass! Simply say, 'I'm a graduate' and stop trying to impress with your
>lack of knowledge of Latin." :-)

Well, you *could* have saved some wear and tear on the ol' ticker by
processing the remark as "I'm an alum, nigh."


>On 9/6/07, ronbutters at <ronbutters at> wrote:
>>  ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>>  Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>>  Poster:       ronbutters at AOL.COM
>>  Subject:      Re: Another one bites the dust?
>>  Such examples get discussed here periodically, and the issue is
>>pretty trivial. The anglicization of loan words is normal and
>>  Those of us who know (or care) about the foreign-language plural
>>forms for various loans are in a minority. I personally chuckle
>>when I hear Duke English professors say "a criteria," but I also
>>chuckle at my own snobbery. I do not myself use "datum" or
>>"criterium" -- & I pronounce an "-s" on "flower" to pluralize it,
>>even though the French generally do not.
>>  ------Original Message------
>>  From: Joel S. Berson
>>  Sender: American Dialect Society
>>  ReplyTo: American Dialect Society
>>  Sent: Sep 6, 2007 12:22 PM
>>  Subject: Re: [ADS-L] Another one bites the dust?
>>  At 9/6/2007 12:03 PM, 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.
>>  And "a grafitti".
>>  Joel
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>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
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