Saturday February 24, 2007

This I Believe #21

...that when borrowing words into English, especially when their number is unclear and they tend to get used as mass nouns, you should invent singular forms for them as if they followed the high-prestige Latin pattern, regardless of their actual language of origin.  Examples:

(First declension)  The warrior class of ancient Japan were the samurai.  Each samura traditionally carried two swords.

(Second declension masculine)  When my wife dances, she wears decorative bindi.  Sometimes, during a performance, the glue comes loose and she loses a bindus.

(Second declension neuter)  Often for dessert at a Middle Eastern restaurant I will order a plate of baklava.  Generally it comes on a plate containing several pieces, so that each person at the table can have their own baklavum.

If you want to go the extra mile, you can even back-form an irregular third declension singular, as in:

I recommend the tempura. When eating it, be sure to dip every individual tempus in the special sauce provided.  (Extra bonus: round trip Romance-language borrowing!)

Finally, if you're really feeling ambitious, you can even do Latin-style number concord:

Traditionally, an order of nigiri sushi consists of two pieces.  Each nigirus sushus is a ball of rice with fish or some other food laid on top.

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
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I think you're confusing samurai with samurae.

But I believe samuras will work for a Greek singular.

Posted by: includedmiddle at Feb 24, 2007 4:16:14 PM

I think you're confusing samurai with samurae.

I stand by my analysis. I'm all about the classical pronunciation—accept no ecclesiastical or regional substitutes. (And don't forget that the diphthong ae was often spelled ai in Old Latin.)

Posted by: The Tensor at Feb 24, 2007 4:29:59 PM

Old Latin, Schmold Latin. I stand with Cicero and with orthographic consistency.

Samaraus would be acceptable.

Posted by: includedmiddle at Feb 24, 2007 5:30:28 PM

Make sure to put plenty of sauce on your tempuribus and eat all your nigiros sushos - the cook here is a samura, and you don't want to give knife-carrying samuris cause for offence. If this makes you nervous, I suggest you go to a Chinese restaurant instead - dis sus is quite tasty, after all.

Posted by: L at Feb 26, 2007 3:57:51 AM

On second thoughts, I should have just linked:

Posted by: L at Feb 26, 2007 4:04:09 AM

I also believe that one should form classical plurals of commercial names: Kleenices, Volvones, Prii, Posta.

Posted by: theophylact at Feb 26, 2007 9:17:30 AM

Shouldn't it be Kleeneges? (By analogy with lex and rex.)

Posted by: The Tensor at Feb 26, 2007 2:59:30 PM

or it could be Kleenectes (cf nox) or Kleeneves (cf nix). Caesar bibit cocamcolam? Salad is, I presume, an archaic ablative. salad constat letu:s cum vinegine.

Posted by: Claire at Feb 26, 2007 7:48:47 PM

I have to sit down on a tatamus and think this one over.

Posted by: Erkki at Feb 27, 2007 12:59:47 AM

Heck, why not go whole hog and say baklavon!

Posted by: Angelo at Feb 27, 2007 8:35:35 AM

Volvones ends up being particularily layered since the commercial name is a latin verb. Volvo - I rotate.

Thus, a better plural might be Volvamus.

Posted by: Michi at Mar 9, 2007 2:15:56 AM