[Ads-l] plural of "emoji"

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Fri Jan 10 03:51:04 UTC 2020

On Thu, Jan 9, 2020 at 9:57 PM Laurence Horn wrote:

> > On Jan 9, 2020, at 9:34 PM, James Landau wrote:
> >
> > In today's "WuMo" cartoon, there is a tombstone with the epitaph "Always
> answered a text

> and never used too many emoji". The cartoon seems to imply that "emoji"
> is either its own plural,
> Well, if “panini" can be its own singular (R.I.Panino), no reason why
> “emoji" can’t be its own plural.
> > like "sheep", or that it is a mass noun.
> The former seems more likely, since “an emoji” is alive and well; there’s
> even a sheep emoji (and no mass emoji).

Not only that, if "emoji" were functioning as a mass noun, we'd expect "too
much emoji" rather than "too many."

Arnold Zwicky's 2001 paper "Counting Chad" nicely elucidates the
difference between "zero-plurals" and mass nouns:


I've cited Arnold's paper in some of my own observations on Language Log
and elsewhere:

"'Chad' back in the news" (LL, May 30, 2008)
"Counting E-mails (and Spams)" (Word Routes, May 7, 2010)
"'Too much Obama vote'" (LL, Nov. 7, 2012)
As for the pluralization of "emoji," this Atlantic piece suggests the
matter was undecided in 2016, and I'd say that's still the case four years


As emoji expert Gretchen McCulloch points out in the article, the
zero-plural follows how we typically treat Japanese loanwords like "kanji"
(in accordance with zero-pluralization in Japanese itself). But the "-s"
plural (which is preferred by the AP Manual and other style guides) has
grown in popularity as the word has become more fully nativized in English.
"Emojis are" beats out "emoji are" by about 2 to 1 in the online corpora
I've checked.


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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