[Taxacom] Family names are plural. Period

Neal Evenhuis neale at bishopmuseum.org
Wed Feb 20 19:34:45 CST 2008


At 8:01 PM -0500 2/20/08, Dick Jensen wrote:
>As my final word on this, I don't care what the nature of a word is 
>(singular or plural, Latin or German or English), it is common in 
>English usage to treat collectives as singular when refering to all 
>members of the group as a single entity.  Despite the quibble with 
>my example of "Los Angeles are a city," I will close by noting that 
>"The Unites States of America is a member of the U.N. Security 
>Council."
>

"common in English usage" is not necessarily true.

As we all know, whatever is in Wikipedia is the truth and beyond 
reproach, so here's my 2 cents/pence worth from Wikipedia's 
differences between British English and American English ...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_and_British_English_differences

...that pertains to this thread:

Nouns

Formal and notional agreement
In BrE, collective nouns can take either singular (formal agreement) 
or plural (notional agreement) verb forms, according to whether the 
emphasis is, respectively, on the body as a whole or on the 
individual members; compare a committee was appointed... with the 
committee were unable to agree....[5][6] Compare also the following 
lines of Elvis Costello's song "Oliver's Army": Oliver's Army are on 
their way / Oliver's Army is here to stay. Some of these nouns, for 
example staff,[7] actually combine with plural verbs most of the time.
In AmE, collective nouns are usually singular in construction: the 
committee was unable to agree... AmE however may use plural pronouns 
in agreement with collective nouns: the team takes their seats, 
rather than the team takes its seats. The rule of thumb is that a 
group acting as a unit is considered singular and a group of 
"individuals acting separately" is considered plural.[8] However, 
such a sentence would most likely be recast as the team members take 
their seats. Despite exceptions such as usage in the New York Times, 
the names of sports teams are usually treated as plurals even if the 
form of the name is singular.[9]
The difference occurs for all nouns of multitude, both general terms 
such as team and company and proper nouns (for example, where a place 
name is used to refer to a sports team). For instance,
BrE: The Clash are a well-known band; AmE: The Clash is a well-known band.
BrE: New York are the champions; AmE: New York is the champion.
Proper nouns that are plural in form take a plural verb in both AmE 
and BrE; for example, The Beatles are a well-known band; The Giants 
are the champions.

... and yes... the Giants ARE indeed the champions!



But I'm still unsure why the British refer to bees as "going to 
blossom" rather than "going to blossoms" as they most assuredly go to 
more than one.

However, I suppose I really can't knock that convention since it 
saves the use of one letter and sort of contraindicates their use of 
-ue endings such as "catalogue" or additional letters such as 
"orientate" rather than simply "orient" where we Americans are trying 
to save printer cartridge ink by not using those superfluous ending 
letters. ;-)

"Hopefully" this will not engender too much hate mail....

-Neal


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