Wednesday, March 15, 2006

-Ice, -Ice, Baby

If you occasionally view an autumn leave through your contact lense, why not check an indice?

It's probably something I'll see all over the place now that I've noticed it once, but I'm pretty sure I had never before seen the last of those singular-via-plural formations until I read a quote by an academic calling some measure of success in Iraq "a positive indice."

"Indices," of course, is an alternate plural of "indexes," and it's not surprising that the kind of people who use the more eggheady-sounding plural for certain kinds of indexes might stop thinking of "indices" as being indexes at all.

"Lense" is pretty common, and it's the most innocuous example, as the pronunciation is the same as that of the correct spelling. "Leave" for "leaf" isn't a mistake you see very often, at least among adults, but it's more analogous to "indice" because of the pronunciation difference.

Tamale, by the way, is another example of this phenomenon (in Spanish, "tamales" is the plural of "tamal"), but I'm less bothered by such transformations when they cross languages. Similarly, I don't see what the big deal is with the supposed redundancy of "Rio Grande River" and "Sahara Desert." (If "ugga-bugga" means restaurant in Uppaduppian and I'm opening an Uppaduppian restaurant, I'm not allowed to call it the Ugga-Bugga Restaurant?)

16 comments:

markindenver said...

I'll have the Shrimp Scampi.

Bill said...

Good one, Mark. Somehow that one still grates.

MuPu said...

Ooh! This is making me hungarian. Make it a large jumbo shrimp scampi for me. With tuna fish. And a glass of reconstituted powdered milk. Paprika on everything. Thanks.

MuPu said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
MuPu said...

Crazy, man: One online dictionary defines "index" as "an ordered list" or "a number or variable." The plural of the former is given as "indexes"; the latter is given as "indices." Separately, the same dictionary defines "indice" as "index" or "indicator." Yuck.

A somewhat unrelated side note: A foreign plural word can sometimes end up as a singular one in English (like "assassin" from the Arabic for "pot smokers").

Good news from Canadia: A member of the Toronto Maple Leafs would not likely be called a "Maple Leave."

Blork said...

There are many shades of gray. For example, "panini" is Italian for "sandwiches" (plural). The singular form is "panino." But should we expect non-Italian speakers to know that when they as for "a panini" in a restaurant? (Personally, I live in a multi-lingual environment, so I'm inclinced to say "yes.")

Here's a hot one: "premises" as it relates to a house, or address. Even when refering to a single address, it is "the premises." Yet I have recently encountered people refering to a single address as a "premise." As in... "the delivery person will drop the package off at your premise." ACK!

ReluctantLeftist said...

As a postsecondary math instructor, I can attest that an enormous number of students refer to a single vertex as a "vertice" (three syllables).

Melanie C said...

Hmmm...I never knew about tamales.

I wonder what people would say if I walked into Panera Bread and ordered a portobello mozzarella panino.

mlivingston said...

Indexes/indices (depending on the meaning of the singular) isn't all that odd. Fish/fishes and folk/folks come to mind; also, debatably, people/persons.

Sara in Iowa said...

My pet peeve is the use of the word "asterick" instead of "asterisk." This may not be a plural/singular situation ... more of a verb/noun thing. Personally, I don't use the word as a verb, but others where I work do, and they always says, "Let's asterick that." It bothers me. The word is "asterisk." And it's a noun. Am I off-base here??

Sara in Iowa said...

Wow, great proofing on my part!

" ... they always says,"

Nice!

Lillie said...

Considering that people also say "asterix" instead of "asterisk," "asterick" may be a result of misguided singular-via-plural formation too.

MuPu said...

Considering that people also say "asterix" instead of "asterisk," "asterick" may be a result of misguided singular-via-plural formation too.

Here's a timely bit of evidence to support your observation, Lillie: Just moments ago, my five-year-old daughter asked me for a "Kleeneck" to blow her nose. I kid you not.

Aaron said...

On the subject of Italian cuisine and the letter X: I refuse to patronize expresso carts/bars/cafes. There's no way they know how to pull a perfect xot.

They're total doppios.

aparker54 said...

I went through hell because of stories about a man whom the wires insisted on calling the American Taliban. Dammit! The singular is "talib."

Gloom Raider said...

Not ten feet away from me at this moment is a coworker who believes the singular of "parentheses" is "parenthese" with a pronounced final e.

It's hard out there for a proofreader.