"two hundred troops"
Arnold M. Zwicky
zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Wed Jan 31 19:41:14 UTC 2007
On Jan 31, 2007, at 8:21 AM, Edith Moravcsik wrote:
> Talking about number: it is really interesting how the word
> "troops" is used these days.
> "Troop" originally was a collective noun referring to a group of
> people. But more recently it has also been used in reference to
> individuals. Thus "a hundred troops" primarily refers to a hundred
> soldiers and not to a hundred groups of them.
> What is particularly interesting is that, when it is used for a
> plurality of invididuals, it sounds better (to me) if the numeral
> is large: "a hundred troops" is better than "five troops" or "two
> troops". And using the singular "troop" in reference to a single
> person is even stranger (?"Over there I saw a troop") although
> Mickey Noonan reports to have found occurrences of it on the web,
> some from The New York Times...
many many people have noticed the size effect -- that "troops" is
better when used with large numbers, especially round numbers (and
quantity determiners). (there is a similar effect for many people
with certain ethnonyms, like "Chinese": cf. "thousands of Chinese",
"268 Chinese", "four Chinese" [credit to Liz Norcliffe and Lauren
i blogged about "troops" (and other things) back in December:
AZ, 12/8/06: Plural, mass, collective:
and then more recently with a quote from the Onion:
AZ, 1/30/07: Support our troop:
More information about the Lingtyp