Strictly correct plurals of flower names

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It has come to my attention that many laypeople, even Language Log readers, are using incorrect plurals for flower names. "Geraniums" indeed! "Crocuses", for heaven's sake! Please get these right. There follows a list of 30 count nouns naming flowers, together with their approved grammatically correct plurals. Don't use incorrect plurals any more. Shape up.

agapanthus agapanthi
amaryllis amarylles
antirrhinum antirrhina
azalea azaleae
begonia begoniae
camellia camelliae
carnation carnatia
chrysanthemum   chrysanthema
cosmos cosmoi
crocus croci
daffodil daffodilia
dahlia dahliae
delphinium delphinia
edelweiss edelweisser
forget-me-not forget-us-not
geranium gerania
gladiolus gladioli
hibiscus hibisci
iris ires
lilac lilaces
lotus loti
mimosa mimosae
narcissus narcissi
nasturtium nasturtia
orchid orchides
petunia petuniae
rhododendron rhododendra
snapdragon snapdraga
statice statistics
zinnia zinniae

Oh, one other thing before you go: I'm kidding (though I bet until you were a few seconds into the list you thought I wasn't)! Nearly all the above are ridiculous. In certain cases it is completely clear that I simply made stuff up. (People nearly always get away with making stuff up about language; they assume no one will call them on what they say, and they are very largely right.)

Most flower names take ordinary regular native English plurals (camellias, crocuses, forget-me-nots, geraniums, snapdragons, …). For a few, the Latin plural may be common (as with gladioli, for example). A very few may be on the anglicization cusp, showing variation between ordinary regular plurals and irregular classical ones; non-flower nouns in this state include focus (focuses or foci), index (indexes or indices), etc. And some names of plants with small flowers (like maybe cosmos) may act like mass nouns rather than taking plural forms (We planted a whole lot of cosmos over there).

Don't be bullied by prescriptivist or purist nitwits who imagine that status can be achieved by learning the formation of Latin and Greek plurals, and that you're a bad person if you say The data is complex rather than The data are complex. (Once upon a time — say 50 years ago — data was widely regarded as simply the irregular plural of the Latin word datum "that which is given", so it took plural agreement; but now it is an English non-count noun meaning something like "information that could be subjected to scientific analysis" and generally takes singular agreement.)

Look at ordinary practice in order to decide what is probably correct English, and accept that there may be variation within Standard English morphology. (But do get phenomena right: it's the Greek plural of phenomenon. One must have some standards. You will not be invited to the right literary lunches if you say *It was a strange phenomena.)


  1. Kapitano said,

    September 21, 2016 @ 2:48 pm

    In a prescriptivist world where…

    * Crises has Crises not Crisises, and
    * Clitoris has Clitorides not Clitorises, and
    * Octopus has Octopodes not Octopuses nor even Octopi

    …all those could be actual examples. And in some "style guide" somewhere, probably are.

  2. Dick Margulis said,

    September 21, 2016 @ 2:53 pm

    In 1971, I had a neighbor, an older gentleman who was born in Italy, who had a garden and was a fount of gardening wisdom to fresh-from-the-city me. It took about a week of his referring to croci (I heard it as crocae and mentally spelled it that way until seeing your list above) before I figured out that he was referring to crocuses.

    But in many a garden conversation since then, with people from all over the world, knowing the Latin name of a plant (or something approximating the Latin name of the plant) has come in handy for all involved.

  3. Mara K said,

    September 21, 2016 @ 2:59 pm

    Phenomenon. (video)

  4. J.W. Brewer said,

    September 21, 2016 @ 3:05 pm

    The forget-me-not example does suggest the issue of flower names which are transparent English phrases where the head noun is not in final position, sometimes leading to genuine native-speaker uncertainty about whether to pluralize the head noun or just stick an -s on the end of the whole thing. I think it probably ought to be "jack-in-the-pulpits" rather than "jacks-in-the-pulpit," and probably (although this feels more tentative) "lily-of-the-valleys" rather than "lilies-of-the-valley." But unless one has had prior occasion to speak frequently about the specific flower in the plural, a bit of hesitation and mental guesswork before speaking may result.

  5. Norman Smith said,

    September 21, 2016 @ 3:25 pm

    I was guessing that the correct (politically?) plural of "chrysanthemum" was now "chrysantheparents". Dashed!

  6. Russell said,

    September 21, 2016 @ 3:33 pm

    I laughed so hard I used up several boxes of Kleenices.

  7. Roscoe said,

    September 21, 2016 @ 3:45 pm


  8. Jon Lennox said,

    September 21, 2016 @ 3:46 pm

    J. W. Brewer: The plural is definitely "lillies-of-the-valley", if only because the lyrics of White Coral Bells have fixed the form. Jack-in-the-pulpits I'm less certain about.

  9. Sniffnoy said,

    September 21, 2016 @ 3:48 pm

    I rather like the sound of "rhododendra", personally…

  10. David L said,

    September 21, 2016 @ 3:48 pm

    Croci is always the plural of crocus in the New York Times crossword, not for reasons of pedantry but because short words ending in vowels are structurally useful ( or 'utile,' as they say in crosswordland).

  11. Vicki said,

    September 21, 2016 @ 3:54 pm

    I am fond of "rhododendra," but that's just playing with the words, not believing that "rhododendrons" is incorrect. And, for animals, I like "octopodes" for more than one octopus, rather than "octopi," but the great mass of English-speakers has outvoted me on that.

  12. V said,

    September 21, 2016 @ 4:03 pm

    While watering the gladiolōs this morning I noticed that the petals of my azaleārum looked especially beautiful today. Am I doing it right??

  13. Gregory Kusnick said,

    September 21, 2016 @ 4:05 pm

    I vote for jacks-in-the-pulpits, since a singular jack can scarcely occupy plural pulpits.

  14. Brett said,

    September 21, 2016 @ 4:14 pm

    @J.W. Brewer: In one of his magazine columns, Stephen J. Gould (of all people) discussed the difficulty of finding a good plural for "jack-in-the-pulpit." When the column was reprinted in a book, he added a note that several readers had written in, pointing out that the most natural choice was really "jacks-in-the-pulpits."

  15. Phillip Minden said,

    September 21, 2016 @ 4:25 pm

    Edelweisser than what? (Ahem.)

  16. Rubrick said,

    September 21, 2016 @ 4:29 pm

    Thanks, Geoff. You are one of the best Pulla out there.

  17. Guy said,

    September 21, 2016 @ 4:43 pm

    I can never get over the fact that many people call them "roses" even in contexts where they should be using the past participle "risens".

  18. Ari Corcoran said,

    September 21, 2016 @ 4:48 pm

    Why I love Language Log.

    Perhaps the problem is, on the one hand, the ugliness of many Germanic plurals; and on the other the sheer bastardry of Greek/Latin pluralisation.

    Though I am taken by the notion of forget-us-nots.

    For the first time in 40 years I have bought some flowers for a lover, in local sicilian dialect settembrini, wild flowers from this time of year: delicate white stars with a yellow centre. "Little Septembers"? Give me strength. Romance languages do it right.

  19. J.W. Brewer said,

    September 21, 2016 @ 4:52 pm

    Of course, one reason for confusion/uncertainty in some of these cases is the implicit notion that for any given noun there's only One Right Way to form the plural, leading to stress if multiple not-obviously-wrong candidates occur to the speaker/writer who then does not know which to use. It's not (as far as I know) a flower name, but I'm intrigued to see a note appended to a post at the Grammarphobia blog saying : 'A reader asks how to form the plural of “Johnny-come-lately.” All the standard dictionaries we’ve checked say that both “Johnny-come-latelies” and “Johnnies-come-lately” are OK. We like “Johnny-come-latelies.”' The trick is how to cultivate the instinct "either 'crocuses' or 'croci' will be ok, so just pick one and get on to drafting the next sentence instead of sitting there frozen."

  20. Jeffrey L. Whitledge said,

    September 21, 2016 @ 4:53 pm

    When you started with "It has come to my attention", I knew you were kidding. When I got to "using incorrect plurals," there was no possible sequence of words that could have followed that could have convinced me you were being serious.

  21. Chris C. said,

    September 21, 2016 @ 5:06 pm

    @Kapitano — To be fair, "octopi" really is ridiculous. It has its origins in exactly the kind of pseudo-erudite peeving Prof. Pullum is spoofing here. Only a true ass would insist on "octopodes", of course, but it's absurd to say "octopuses" is wrong as some do.

    @GP — Oh, please. The proper plural of snapdragon is clearly snapdracones.

  22. Shlomo Argamon said,

    September 21, 2016 @ 5:31 pm


  23. mollymooly said,

    September 21, 2016 @ 5:39 pm


  24. JPL said,

    September 21, 2016 @ 5:48 pm

    My favourite, which I'm going to do all I can to get into the common usage, is "daffodilia"; that and the derived nominal form, "daffodility", as in "Your garden has an admirable daffodility!".

  25. leoboiko said,

    September 21, 2016 @ 6:10 pm

    I've once compiled a list like this for Pokémonstra. One Bulbasaur, two Bulbasaurow, three Bulbasauroy. One Charmeleon, two Charmeleonte, three Charmeleontes. One Mienfoo, two Mienfoomen. One Pidgeot, two Pidgeotas; one Vileplume, two Vileplumæ; one Vaporeon, two Vaporeonios; one Ferrothorn, two Ferrothornas; one Cofagrigus, two Cofagrigodes… the collective for Geodudes should be Geoposse.

  26. Ray said,

    September 21, 2016 @ 6:15 pm

    this reminds me of how our word for "cherries" comes from the french "cerise" and then we thought it it could be singularized to "cherry." tant pea?

  27. cameron said,

    September 21, 2016 @ 7:16 pm

    Vox amplifiers are often referred to in the plural, by the nerdier class of guitarists, as Voxen. Similarly, the now-archaic line of Vax computers were called Vaxen in the plural (only nerds, needless to say, spoke of Vaxen at all).

    Someone once asked me what the "correct" plural of clitoris is. I looked it up. Clitorides.

  28. Graeme said,

    September 21, 2016 @ 7:23 pm

    Well luckily 'He let us in'.

    Or – thanks to you language vandals – generations of kiddies wouldn't know if Ringo visited a garden belonging to a sole cephalopod, or a community of them.

  29. languagehat said,

    September 21, 2016 @ 7:25 pm

    My very favorite officially recommended plural is that for vas deferens. If anyone here can produce it without looking it up, I'll be most impressed.

  30. John A Spevacek said,

    September 21, 2016 @ 7:25 pm

    Geoffrey, as soon as I saw you as the author, I knew not to take you seriously. (Yes, some of us can tell you're coming from many thousands of miles away.)

    This was fabulous! Death to the prescriptionists! This, more than any other of your posts, shows that point.

    The fascination with Latin grammar is somewhat understandable as there is a common etymology and grammar (to a lessor degree). But that's the end of it.

  31. John said,

    September 21, 2016 @ 7:29 pm

    I prefer octopodes and dwarrows, myself.

  32. Eli said,

    September 21, 2016 @ 8:22 pm

    @Languagehat: I guessed "vares deferentes," then looked it up and discovered that "vas" is neuter and the "s" does not undergo rhotacism.

    I can think of very few third-declension neuters that retain their Latin plural form in English. There's "regalia," which is only used in the plural. Wiktionary thinks "similia" is used as a plural of "simile"; I'd be quite surprised to actually hear that from anyone. "Rationalia" might theoretically be used as a plural of "rationale," but that would require knowing that the word originally came from Latin and not from French. Are there any others more commonly used?

  33. cameron said,

    September 21, 2016 @ 8:47 pm

    An inverse form of jocular hypercorrection that I sometimes indulge in is forming singular forms based on the pasta names that are imported Italian plurals acting as English mass nouns. These can be construed as either Latin or Italian. Hence "raviolus" or "spaghettus", etc. They're funnier in Latin forms, since raviolio or spaghetto are actually Italian words, hence just trivially hypercorrect.

  34. GretchenJoanna said,

    September 21, 2016 @ 10:04 pm

    One of my favorite Language Log posts ever.

  35. Ethan said,

    September 21, 2016 @ 10:07 pm

    @Eli: "memorabilia" comes to mind. "paraphernalia" might count.

  36. Viseguy said,

    September 21, 2016 @ 11:12 pm

    I was just thinking today (somewhat dolefully, I admit) that criterion seems to be going the way of datum. O tempuses! O moses!

  37. V said,

    September 21, 2016 @ 11:19 pm

    William Carlson Williams dropped "phalloi" in one of his poems:

  38. V said,

    September 21, 2016 @ 11:34 pm

    @Eli: corpus/corpora and genus/genera? Both certainly are jargon to an extent, but those are the plurals used by English speakers who do use those terms.

  39. Mary Ellen Sandahl said,

    September 22, 2016 @ 1:22 am

    Many garden writers use "gladioli" and "narcissi", I suspect because the doubled or tripled ess sound you must produce when saying the English plurals aloud ,combined with the syllabic stresses in those words, feel awkward in the mouth.
    Getting away from the Latin and Greek, you often see pansies explained as anglicization.of French pensees or "thoughts" – which is what Ophelia calls them in "Hamlet". Would an Elizabethan swain have called a single pansy a "thought"?

  40. Adam Roberts said,

    September 22, 2016 @ 1:46 am

    There's only one Language Log! Which is to say, there could never be many Language Logoi.

    … which actually makes me wonder if the title of this blog is a conscious pun on ὁ λόγος? Maybe not.

  41. ardj said,

    September 22, 2016 @ 2:08 am

    As far as I'm concerned, the plural of Statice is Thrift. So is the singular.

  42. Adrian said,

    September 22, 2016 @ 4:20 am

    @Vicki "And, for animals, I like "octopodes" for more than one octopus, rather than "octopi," but the great mass of English-speakers has outvoted me on that."

    I think you'll find that the great mass of us say "octopuses".

  43. Vilinthril said,

    September 22, 2016 @ 5:17 am

    If we're being finicky, it should be “edelweiße”.

  44. Phillip Minden said,

    September 22, 2016 @ 5:26 am

    Vilinthril, vide supra .

  45. David Marjanović said,

    September 22, 2016 @ 5:40 am

    My very favorite officially recommended plural is that for vas deferens. If anyone here can produce it without looking it up, I'll be most impressed.

    Well, vasa deferentia (which I've seen in actual use), but I had Latin in school…
    aes, os, os, mel, lac, vas, ver,
    cor, caput, marmor, iter, cadaver

    are the masculine-looking or just confusing-looking consonant-stem neuters of Latin.

    If we're being finicky, it should be “edelweiße”.

    In German I'd actually not add a plural ending at all: zwei Edelweiß, drei Edelweiß… If pressed, though, I'd add -e just like you do, certainly not -er.

  46. David Morris said,

    September 22, 2016 @ 6:17 am

    @ cameron. I once edited a medico-legal document in which the writer used the plural 'penes'.

  47. Rodger C said,

    September 22, 2016 @ 7:00 am

    Let me be the first native English speaker to say I knew vasa deferentia. My family doctor used to loan me books. Or is that lend? At any rate, eat more opossa.

  48. leoboiko said,

    September 22, 2016 @ 7:13 am

    I think you'll find that the great mass of us say "octopuses".

    For the record, COCA has:

    Octopuses 195
    Octopi 51
    Octopodes 3

    And here's the Google ngrams graph.

  49. January First-of-May said,

    September 22, 2016 @ 8:04 am

    I was a bit unsure on "carnatia", and I was pretty sure that the plural of "cosmos" (in the non-flower sense, at least) was "cosmi" (apparently it's not*).
    But it wasn't until "snapdraga" (and the item after that) that I was fully convinced of the non-seriosity.

    Of course, Russian plurals, while a lot more complicated on native words, are, for the most part, rather simple on (recently) borrowed foreign words ("just add -ы" is perhaps an oversimplification, but it's fairly close).
    So most foreign flower names have obvious and well-constructed plurals (гибискус – гибискусы, герань – герани, хризантема – хризантемы, бегония – бегонии; there are a few other common patterns, such as тамариск – тамариски, юкка – юкки, алоэ – алоэ, that aren't represented in the list).
    However, it is, in fact, unclear whether the plural of иван-да-марья isn't, technically, иваны-да-марьи (this form is, apparently, indeed attested, at least in poetry).

    My favorite not-actually-true linguistic factoid is that "chicken" is technically the plural – the singular is "chick". (This is not only not true, this isn't even the actual etymology, but it still looks very plausible anyway.)
    I've seriously considered, several times, to spread this as an urban myth; the only thing stopping me was that I honestly had (and still have) no idea how to spread an urban myth properly.

    @Adam Roberts:
    … which actually makes me wonder if the title of this blog is a conscious pun on ὁ λόγος? Maybe not.

    No, I think it's just a holdover from the times when "blog" was short for "web log".

    *) Google Ngrams gives nearly identical frequencies for "cosmoses", "cosmoi" and "cosmi" in the 1990s (and fairly similar frequencies in the 2000s, where "cosmi" actually has the highest frequency of the three), but all the hits for "cosmi" appear to be either personal names, the occasional scanno, or a few Latin passages I couldn't figure out that might well be personal names anyway. (In earlier texts they're also references to a kind of Cretan magistrates.)
    OTOH, I found the delightful plural "cosmois" in a mathematical? text (I wasn't entirely sure from the snippet) that appeared to introduce the term "cosmoi", in the singular, for some kind of collection of higher order (specifically, "a cosmoi of collections of sets of sheaves").

  50. Jerry Friedman said,

    September 22, 2016 @ 8:48 am

    Mary Ellen Sandahl: Yes, the order at Google ngrams is "gladioli" (way ahead), "gladiolas", "glads", "gladioluses". Maybe it was one of Prof. Pullum's little jokes to put two popularly favored plurals on his list.

    (For anyone who's wondering, the singular of "gladiolas" is "gladiola". I wonder whether "gladiola" got started because some people were uncertain about the plural of "gladiolus".)

    I'm not clear at all on the rules for which flower names can be mass nouns. I don't think it's just flower size.

    "VAXen" is a classic example of nerd humor based on misapplying rules. I've heard "boxen" and "mailboxen" from the same people.

  51. John Lawler said,

    September 22, 2016 @ 8:54 am

    sg: mother-in-law's tongue
    pl: mothers'-in-law's tongue

  52. GH said,

    September 22, 2016 @ 8:59 am


    In a prescriptivist world where…

    * Crises has Crises not Crisises

    Assuming the first "Crises" should be "Crisis", I don't think there's any doubt about that even for descriptivists, is there?

  53. Dennis Paul Himes said,

    September 22, 2016 @ 9:01 am

    I regularly use "rhododendra", and at least occasionally "gladioli", and after reading this post I'm greatly tempted to plant some forget-us-not just so I can tell people what they are.

  54. Robert Coren said,

    September 22, 2016 @ 9:38 am

    I find that I often choose unmodified plurals for Latinate flower names: not just Cosmos, but also Crocus, >i>Ageratum, and Heuchera; but, on the other hand "begonias". I have no idea how this happened.

  55. Robert said,

    September 22, 2016 @ 9:52 am

    Too bad. I was looking forward to some revisions, like:

    When Lilaces Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd (Whitman)
    "The Lady of the Camelliae" (Dumas)
    "Ires" – Van Gogh
    "We'll have two mimosae and a Bloody Mary"

  56. Andrew (not the same one) said,

    September 22, 2016 @ 10:17 am

    My spellchecker accepts 'gladioli' but not 'gladioluses'; on the other hand it accepts 'crocuses' but not 'croci'. It accepts neither 'narcissi' nor 'narcissuses'; apparently it thinks there cannot be more than one narcissus.

    Regarding 'octopi', (which it doesn't accept – hm), an earlier discussion here raised the possibility that '-us' to '-i' is actually a productive form in English (though obviously not used in every case), and the question whether it is correct Latin may therefore not be to the point. (And we know that ancient Romans did use 'polypi', which is equally 'incorrect' from a Greek point of view.)

  57. Jerry Friedman said,

    September 22, 2016 @ 10:33 am

    By the way, the singular of "orchides" is "orchis", but even botany nuts seldom have the balls to write that these days, as witness the ngram.

    And on such classical subjects, where I wrote "Prof. Pullum's little jokes", please read "Professoris Pullī little jokes". I think.

  58. Jerry Friedman said,

    September 22, 2016 @ 10:41 am

    The long i worked in preview! *mutters unintelligibly*

  59. Andrew (not the same one) said,

    September 22, 2016 @ 10:42 am

    I'm reminded of some Harry Potter fans, who insisted that J.K. Rowling was wrong to write 'horcruxes', because the plural of Latin 'crux' is 'cruces'. I was inclined to reply that on that basis one should not call McGonagall and Snape 'professors', since the Latin plural is 'professores'.

  60. Jonathan said,

    September 22, 2016 @ 10:42 am

    @languagehat – I'll take a stab and say 'vasa deferntia', as I have a vague memory of reading that somewhere. While my poor Latin knowledge makes that sound more like an accusative form than the nominative plural, it's what comes to my mind.

    Which leads to this horrible joke:

    Q: Is there any difference between the male and female reproductive organs?
    A: Yes, there's a vast difference.

    [This works better spoken than written, for phonetic reasons that I'm sure y'all can explain easily.]

  61. Vilinthril said,

    September 22, 2016 @ 10:43 am

    @Jerry: Professoris Pullī little jokes?

  62. Grunschev said,

    September 22, 2016 @ 11:15 am

    In the sports car world we often get into friendly debates about the proper plural for Lotus. Is it Lotuses? Loti? Some have even suggested "Lotus's" and "Lotii". Others have given up and resort to things like "3 Lotus cars." There is a story that Colin Chapman, founder of Lotus, even wrote a "definitive" opinion. He is said to have said that the proper plural of Lotus is Lotus.

    I'm somewhat disappointed that this blog didn't provide an additional option. I was looking forward to muddying the waters.

  63. J.W. Brewer said,

    September 22, 2016 @ 11:15 am

    Based on exposure to the work of Dame Edna Everage, I think of the plural of gladiol* as the straightforward "gladiolas." But I'm not sure if the singular forms "gladiola" and "gladiolus" are something other than pure synonyms, whether preference for -a v. -us varies by region (Dame Edna uses AustEng), or what.

  64. J.W. Brewer said,

    September 22, 2016 @ 11:20 am

    Interesting to note that this old review uses "gladiolas" or the clipped/informal "gladdies" when quoting/paraphrasing Dame Edna, but the snootier "gladioli" when speaking in Omniscient-Narrator-Voice:

  65. bratschegirl said,

    September 22, 2016 @ 11:28 am

    Upvote for statice – statistics!

  66. Ernie in Berkeley said,

    September 22, 2016 @ 11:51 am

    Back in the day, we'd playfully use "Unices" as the plural for "Unix". I've never seen "Linices" for "Linux", though.

  67. leoboiko said,

    September 22, 2016 @ 11:55 am

    @Ernie: I've seen a lot of "boxen" (for "box" in the sense of "computer system"), as documented in the Jargon File.

  68. Rodger C said,

    September 22, 2016 @ 11:58 am

    There are no polypi on my syllabi.

  69. Eli said,

    September 22, 2016 @ 12:25 pm

    @Andrew (not the same one): Re Harry Potter plurals: I don't mind "Horcruxes," but I do mentally cringe a bit when people use "Horcri." I didn't notice the next thing when I first read it, but the use of "Inferius" in Harry Potter as the singular of "Inferi" (which are basically zombies in these books) also seems to be of dubious validity.

  70. Daniel Barkalow said,

    September 22, 2016 @ 1:04 pm

    This list is useless! Where is my guidance on the difficult cases, like Queen Anne's lace and baby's breath?

  71. leoboiko said,

    September 22, 2016 @ 1:09 pm

    Maternity Effluvia and British Royalty Underwear, of course.

  72. L said,

    September 22, 2016 @ 1:48 pm

    I thought the plural of iris was weris?

  73. leoboiko said,

    September 22, 2016 @ 1:57 pm

    @L: You mean English speakers pronounce "iris" with an [aɪ]? Eeew.

    And anyway wouldn't that be "werare"?

  74. GALESL said,

    September 22, 2016 @ 2:20 pm

    When snapping photographίες of octopodes and agapanthi, I find it takes too long to set up and fix the foci on most camere with tripodes, so I just use a monopus.

  75. Anthony said,

    September 22, 2016 @ 3:45 pm

    At places with panini on the menu will order a panino. (I refrain from ordering Indian grammarian.)

  76. leoboiko said,

    September 22, 2016 @ 3:48 pm

    @Anthony A Roman legionnaire walks into a bar and orders a martinus…

  77. Jerry Friedman said,

    September 22, 2016 @ 4:40 pm

    Vilinthril: Professoris Pullī little jokes?

    Yes, exactly.

  78. stephen said,

    September 22, 2016 @ 6:17 pm

    I wish the Marx Brothers had filmed An Evening at the Opus.

    If I refer to a Latina as a Latino and she gets mad at me how shall I respond? We don't have separate terms for men and women of other groups.

  79. January First-of-May said,

    September 22, 2016 @ 7:56 pm

    @Eli: Apparently "Horcri" almost became the official plural – Rowling considered it, but decided it was too similar to "Inferi" (…yes, really – talk about right things for the wrong reasons!)

    More details on this StackExchange question (which also proposed the versions "horcrucies" and "horcruxen").

  80. Gordon said,

    September 22, 2016 @ 9:04 pm

    @languagehat: And then are the fallopian tuba.

  81. Gordon said,

    September 22, 2016 @ 9:13 pm

    And then *there* are …

  82. dswift said,

    September 22, 2016 @ 11:40 pm

    At comment #6, I believe Russell referenced an old Shelley Berman quip.

  83. Joseph F Foster said,

    September 22, 2016 @ 11:57 pm

    Some of these plants on Professor Pullum's list have edible varieties. The edible version of hibiscus for instance is hotbiscuits. Of course I had to make the flower into flour to cook that one up.

  84. Stephen said,

    September 23, 2016 @ 5:28 am

    @Mary Ellen Sandahl
    @Jerry Friedman

    In my experience (in Britain) I think that the plurals are always "gladioli" and "narcissi". So I found those two examples rather confusing.

  85. Pete said,

    September 23, 2016 @ 5:38 am

    Yes, what a hilariously ridiculous list! Ires as the plural of iris, indeed!

    Everyone knows the correct plural of iris is of course irides.

  86. David Marjanović said,

    September 23, 2016 @ 6:12 am

    Q: Is there any difference between the male and female reproductive organs?
    A: Yes, there's a vast difference.

    [This works better spoken than written, for phonetic reasons that I'm sure y'all can explain easily.]

    It works particularly well if you have the pen/pin merger and don't distinguish /ns/ from /nts/.

    @L: You mean English speakers pronounce "iris" with an [aɪ]? Eeew.

    Sure. They're quite merciless that way. Spell it eris and you might get somewhere, or not.

    Everyone knows the correct plural of iris is of course irides.

    Hence iridescent.

  87. Andrew (not the same one) said,

    September 23, 2016 @ 8:31 am

    Well, we know that wizards speak bad Latin. (I believe a lot of real-world magic is indeed written in bad Latin.) If they had decided to say 'horcri', though this would in the first place have depended on a misunderstanding, it would be right in a descriptivist sense. It would just be carrying the instinct which produces 'octopi' a bit further.

    As of 'inferi', that is quite plausible as a contraction of 'inferii'.

  88. Vilinthril said,

    September 23, 2016 @ 8:39 am

    Ad “inferius/inferi”: Yes, but the problem is that “inferi” is an actual Latin word with an actual singular “inferus”, so using “inferius” instead just shows lack of research. Or, worse and more likely, lack of caring even a bit about whether it's even correct.

  89. leoboiko said,

    September 23, 2016 @ 8:39 am

    @Andrew (not the same one): After Medieval Latin and Church Latin, why not a Magical Latin, right?…

  90. Andrew (not the same one) said,

    September 23, 2016 @ 11:08 am

    Vilinthril: Yes, but the actual word 'inferus' means something different. Given that in the real world magicians actually do use bad Latin, the idea that Rowling should have aimed at correctness of Latin seems absurd to me.

  91. Vilinthril said,

    September 23, 2016 @ 12:22 pm

    @Andrew: Something different? I don't really agree. The meaning “(souls of the) dead” is just a wider sense of “those below”.

    And why use Latin (words) if you're not going to use it (them) properly? That's something I never really got.

  92. languagehat said,

    September 23, 2016 @ 12:39 pm

    And why use Latin (words) if you're not going to use it (them) properly?

    I entirely agree; it's like Anglo-American writers giving Russian characters absurd names because they can't be bothered to take five minutes to find real ones. "Given that in the real world magicians actually do use bad Latin.." is just special pleading to excuse the laziness of a (presumably) favored author.

  93. Peter S. said,

    September 23, 2016 @ 1:58 pm

    One of my favorite plurals comes from the English menu in a Thai restaurant in Denmark. Some of the dishes came with coriands. Clearly, the Danish word koriander was singularized to get koriand, which was re-pluralized in English to get coriands.

  94. H said,

    September 24, 2016 @ 6:07 am

    Consider this: If a language changes too much and in certain ways, old writings and
    recordings etc.. will become difficult and/or impossible to understand.
    Therefore, it is advantageous to future generations who may want read
    old books for the current generation to try to stop certain changes that
    make older versions hard to understand (i.e spelling, pronunciation) but
    not ones that don't (i.e split infinitive).
    And you might say that records can be made of the changes and translations of old documents can be made, but its impossible to cover every area of the world so some prescriptivism is a good idea.

  95. languagehat said,

    September 24, 2016 @ 8:09 am

    You say "Consider this" as though you were about to produce some brilliant new insight. In fact, that is one of the moldiest prescriptivist/peever cliches, and it falls to pieces as soon as you realize it is impossible to stop change — complaints, however vigorous and eloquent, do no more than give the complainer (and fellow peevers) satisfaction. If it makes you happy, by all means do it, but don't tell yourself you're engaged in a noble pursuit that will retard the downfall of civilization. You're in exactly the same position of someone complaining about that stuff kids today call music, or looking at modern art and saying your five-your-old kid could draw better than that.

  96. Robert Coren said,

    September 24, 2016 @ 10:10 am

    @Jerry Friedman: "but even botany nuts seldom have the balls to write that these days"

    I see what you did there. (Just in case you were worried that nobody appreciated it.)

  97. H said,

    September 24, 2016 @ 11:43 am

    > You say "Consider this" as though you were about to produce some brilliant new insight.
    I never intended to convey that and BTW brilliant insight is not nessecarily new
    Also, I'm really sorry if I offended you in some way (please tell me what) but there's really no need to speak like that and I would like you to stop.
    > it is impossible to retard change
    You are probably right on this one (I'll have to experiment if and when I get around to it) but you don't have to be so offensive about it

  98. languagehat said,

    September 24, 2016 @ 12:13 pm

    No offense intended.

  99. Catanea said,

    September 24, 2016 @ 1:31 pm

    Wot I sez is I sez:
    Use whatever plural gives the most amusement with the least confusion to your audience.

  100. James Wimberley said,

    September 26, 2016 @ 5:00 pm

    Professor Geoffrey Pullum is an Edelwisser.

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