molasses sg/pl - dialectal variation?

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Sun Apr 5 02:22:03 UTC 2009

Mark Mandel wrote:
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Mark Mandel <thnidu at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Re: molasses sg/pl - dialectal variation?
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On Sat, Apr 4, 2009 at 7:46 PM, Douglas G. Wilson <douglas at> wrote:
>> In DARE: v. 3, p. 633: under "molasses", sec. B:
>> <<Also rarely _molassisis_: used as pl count noun. *chiefly S Midl* Cf
>> *cabbage A2, cheese A* [followed by exx. 1843-1989]>>
>> Apparently in Appalachia, Ozarks, etc. "cabbage" is often construed as
>> plural ... also "tomato", and "cheese" (hence the singular "chee").
>> -- Doug Wilson
> The back-formation of chee < cheese is obvious, but does anyone have a
> clue about where the plural cabbage and tomato come from?

The "tomato" volume of DARE hasn't reached me yet. I think the assertion
about "tomato" is taken from Kephart's _Our Southern Highlanders_ (1926)
(available at G-Books). Looking at this and another book or two, I think
the intended assertion may be that "tomatoes" is often used where
"tomato" might be more usual elsewhere (rather than that "tomato" itself
is considered plural). Cf. "baking powders" used for "baking powder".

As for the plural "cabbage", I can only produce a WAG or two: (1) maybe
the coexistence of countable and uncountable "cabbage" [i.e., of
"cabbages" (plural) and "cabbage" (mass)] led to the idea that a zero
plural was 'correct' (cf. the assertion in recent years that "chad" has
a 'correct' zero plural); (2) maybe "cabbage" was taken as the
eggcornish "cab-buds".

I don't have any personal experience with these regionalisms/variants.

-- Doug Wilson

The American Dialect Society -

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