The Top Ten: Plurals that have become singular
John Rentoul is chief political commentator for The Independent on Sunday, and visiting professor at Queen Mary, University of London, where he teaches contemporary history. Previously he was chief leader writer for The Independent. He has written a biography of Tony Blair, whom he admired more at the end of his time in office than he did at the beginning.
Sunday 01 June 2014
I used "data" as a plural the other day, which is a bit old-fashioned. Data, dice, graffiti, panini, media and politics are usually singular nouns these days, and I know only one person who treats news as a plural, but Rich Greenhill came up with many other words that were once – unknown to me – plurals. Here are the best...
1. Quince: Middle English plural of Old French cooin, from Latin for apple of Cydonia, now Chania, Crete.
2. Stamina: Latin plural of stamen, thread or essential element, before it was applied by analogy to flower parts.
3. Chintz: Plural of chint, a stained or painted calico cloth imported from India, from Hindi chimt, spattering, stain.
4. Pox: Plural of pock, as in pock-marked.
5. Truce: Plural of true, Middle English, in the sense of belief, trust.
6. Invoice: Plural of obsolete invoy, from French envoy, envoyer, to send.
7. Broccoli: Italian, plural of broccolo, cabbage sprout, head, diminutive of brocco, shoot.
8. Dismal: Originally a noun, for the two days in each month which were believed to be unlucky, from Anglo-Norman French dis mal, and medieval Latin dies mali, evil days.
9. Sweden: Originally a plural of Swede, a Swedish person.
10. Bodice: Originally bodies.
Next week: Best rhymes in songs.
Coming soon: Underrated family films (such as 'The Emperor's New Groove'). Send your suggestions, and ideas for future Top 10s, to firstname.lastname@example.org
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