Peeve emergence: The case of "vinyls"

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If you don't hang out with millennial hipsters, you might not have noticed that the cool kids are listening to music on turntables playing old-fashioned vinyl records, with many of these records being newly released rather than rescued from thrift shops. And you might also have missed a fascinating case of peeve emergence: the "rule" that one of these objects is called a "vinyl", while (say) three of them should be called "three vinyl", never "three vinyls". According to this"rule", instead of "many of these records", I could have written "many of these vinyl", but not "many of these vinyls". This is an issue that some people feel very strongly about.

Thus Dave Segal, "What Is the Plural of Vinyl?", 12/28/2010:

This issue came to my attention twice yesterday: once on Twitter, where someone griped about people using the term "vinyls" to describe more than one record; the other instance occurred while perusing Sonic Boom's holiday zine, in which a clerk informed its readers that vinyl is indeed the plural term for vinyl (the same principle applies to fish, buffalo, and sperm).

I am guilty of occasionally using vinyls, but it's always deployed in a tongue-in-cheek manner. When you know the rules, you can break them—but only once every three months. It's in the manual. Trust me.

"The plural of vinyl is vinyl", Drowned in Sound 2/23/2012:

Just a heads-up, so you can stop saying/typing "vinyls". Cos doing so makes you sound like you buy your music exclusively from Urban Outfitters.

No need to apologise. We've all been out of our depth at one point or other. And we learn from our mistakes, yeah?

Some other plural options: records, LPs, albums, vinyl records.

This has been a public service announcement. Thank you for your avoidance of this increasingly widespread "vinyls" wrongness.

"vinyls" 6/1/2012

having a bit of an argument with someone that has only just started buying records that the plural of vinyl is vinyl. not vinyls. but he went to uni and is about 20 so obviously he is right. anything i can say to shut him up?  is vinyls a real word?

"Amputechture vinyls", The Comatorium 5/11/2012:

Man, I hate to be the school marm but…  "Vinyls" is not a word. The plural of vinyl is "vinyl" like deer is the word for multiple deer. Or you could say records.  Not trying to be a jerk, just educating. I've been on some forums where people are tarred & feathered for saying "vinyls."

"Zzz Records' Frequently Asked Questions":

How many vinyls do you have?



The plural of "vinyl" is "vinyl".  To answer the previous question, though, we have about 12,000 LPs in stock, as well as some assorted 12" singles and 45s.

Comment on

That’s cool man. I’m a wax fiend too. But just so you know there is no such word as “vinyls.” The plural of vinyl happens to be vinyl and I’ve never heard someone with a vinyl collection use the term “vinyls.” Usually its some mp3 downloading kid who has never held a record in their life saying this incorrect and highly frustrating word.

And so on, and on, and on.

There's even a eponymous web site — which would be more convincing if it didn't misspell "independent":

Show your support in the fight against vinyls with a plural of vinyl shirt, available at  your local independant [sic] record store …

This is a lovely peevological case study.  In the first place, of course, the "rule" is a doubtful one at best. Vinyl is a mass noun, like beer or cheese or glass, and as such, it doesn't have a plural. Not having a plural is basically what being a "mass noun" means — a mass noun refers to stuff that comes in variable but conceptually undifferentiated quantities that are measured rather than counted.

But English also has a general morphological process that Arnold Zwicky has called "Countification", whereby the plural form of a mass noun can be used to refer to more than one type or instance of the named category of stuff.  Thus we can talk about "Mexican beers" to refer to brands of beer associated with Mexico; and you can give your order to a waiter by saying "two beers".

Countification has become lexicalized in the case of some mass nouns, like beers, wines, cheeses, waters, bronzes, rubbers, and so on.. But it's available in principle for pretty much any mass noun, where NOUNs might be used to mean "types of NOUN" or "instances of NOUN".  Thus (members of the gang aside) blood doesn't have a common countified plural bloods, but the 1854 Notes of M. Bernard's Lectures on the Blood tells us that "All the analyses already given have been general, as others will be given hereafter when the blood of particular parts, or when particular bloods are described"; and also that "… in this respect all bloods do not resemble each other"; and that "The distinction of color does not exist in the foetus; in it both bloods [i.e. arterial and venous] have exactly the same tint". You may be able to think of a mass noun that can't plausibly be countified, but I haven't come up with one.

What about the zero-plurals like deer, fish, sheep, shrimp, etc.? Does vinyl belong in that group? As far as I know, the only significant regularity there is the zero-plural-for-game-animals pattern discussed in "The European Council legislates English morphology", 10/5/2003;  "We have deer and elk and bear and mice around here", 5/26/2004; "Psycholinguistics in the logging industry", 6/6/2004; "Chad back in the news", 5/30/2008.  But vinyl records are not exactly game animals; except that maybe, on second thought, the folks who administer tar and feathers to users of "vinyls" are also people who hang a brace of vinyl on their wall as a sort of hunting trophy.

Another pocket of  regularly zero-plural nouns is ethnonyms in -ese: Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese — vinyl is clearly not a member of that group. And there are a few zero-plural units of currency: yen, yuan, rand, … Beyond that, there are sporadic examples like cannon and aircraft.

So "the plural of vinyl is 'vinyl'" is an invented "rule", more or less the opposite of the general patterns in the language, which a convinced minority has promoted to the point where "people are tarred and feathered for saying 'vinyls'" in some settings. This is an unusually pure case of peevological emergence, without either tradition or logic on its side, and also (as far as i can tell) without any single authoritative figure behind the idea.

[Vinyl image from Statistical Fiction]


  1. Ray Girvan said,

    June 12, 2012 @ 8:14 pm

    That is quite surprising. I was born in 1956, andI recall "vinyls" (= "vinyl records") to go back decades (I particularly remember the term from New Musical Express in my early teens). Google Books confirms:

    "While a few audio purists might quibble over the fidelity of some of the vintage vinyls …" – Time magazine, Volume 84, 1964

    "When the LP development began, Mendelssohn had the albums remade as ten-inch single vinyls" – The Atlantic, Volume 205, 1960

  2. Chris Waters said,

    June 12, 2012 @ 8:15 pm

    I'm pretty sure that chemists use the plural "vinyls" when referring to multiple compounds in the vinyl family.

  3. tudza said,

    June 12, 2012 @ 8:28 pm

    Thanks for doing the maths.

  4. Tom V said,

    June 12, 2012 @ 8:31 pm

    But are they LP's, 45's (both of which I can play on my turntable), or 78's (which I cannot)?
    Aside: In Rose Macaulay's Towers of Trebizond one character states that the plural of wolf is "wolf" when people are hunting them, but "wolves" when they are hunting people.

  5. Richard Hershberger said,

    June 12, 2012 @ 8:33 pm

    This would seem, at least by first impression, to be as clear an example of artificial linguistic in-group snobbery as we could ask for. People who favor vinyl records are a self-defined in-group to begin with, and here we have a fake linguistic rule to further establish who is in and (more importantly) who is out. I wonder if its precise origin can be established. Also, what will they invent next, should plural "vinyl" actually catch on to the extent that it no longer serves its purpose.

  6. Richard Hershberger said,

    June 12, 2012 @ 8:34 pm

    Also, in the unlikely event that I find myself in the midst of this crowd, I will be sure to use "vinyls" as frequently as possible.

  7. Jon Weinberg said,

    June 12, 2012 @ 8:35 pm

    The definition for vinyl in OS X's built-in dictionary (apparently the New Oxford American) includes the example "light-reflecting vinyls can be hung in the usual way". That suggests that, in some contexts, vinyl's countification is uncontroversial.

  8. J.W. Brewer said,

    June 12, 2012 @ 8:50 pm

    I started buying vinyl (only a mass noun in my idiolect for this context) again in a serious way in 2005 (why yes, that was the year I turned 40 – sheer coincidence . . .), so that e.g. I could acquire all the 45's (plural of a count noun) that I would have bought in junior high school had I not been so poor. I find the use of vinyl as a count noun in this context bizarre (although I appreciate Ray Girvan's interesting early cites), and reserve the right to be grumpy at these Young People and their incomprehensible slang.

  9. J.W. Brewer said,

    June 12, 2012 @ 8:56 pm

    So more specifically, I can't say "many of these vinyl" or "many of these vinyls" in my idiolect, only "much of this vinyl."

  10. John Lawler said,

    June 12, 2012 @ 8:56 pm

    @Tom V — if I recall correctly, 78's were made of shellac or some other substance, and were easily frangible, whereas 45's and 33's were truly made of vinyl and didn't break often, though you could crack them under torsion.

  11. Don Sample said,

    June 12, 2012 @ 8:59 pm

    I've got a copy of the Live Nature Library book "The Fishes", so fish is not exactly a zero plural word.

    [(myl) In your Live Nature Library book, I bet the fishes are not game animals…]

  12. Brad said,

    June 12, 2012 @ 9:01 pm

    Now I know I'm old–I think the plural of "vinyl" should be "records". :(

  13. rob said,

    June 12, 2012 @ 9:17 pm

    Vinyl is the material (some) records are made of, not the object itself. You wouldn't say "I bought a vinyl" or, "I bought 3 vinyls", but rather, I bought a record (or 3).

    If someone happens to ask what the record you bought is made of, feel free to bring vinyl up in your response, if it's appropriate.

  14. Rod Johnson said,

    June 12, 2012 @ 9:25 pm

    I have encountered similar vehemence upon using the word "legos," which, according to many lego enthusiasts is an American barbarism (or perhaps just a barbarism in general).

  15. Dave M. said,

    June 12, 2012 @ 9:26 pm

    It seems to me that "nylons" is a similar example to "vinyls". The product made from the material is shortened to just the name of the material, and then this mass noun is countificated (or whatever you wish to call it) into a more standard plural noun form.

  16. Rod Johnson said,

    June 12, 2012 @ 9:27 pm

    …which, oops, I see is covered in the comments of the Drowned in Sound link…

  17. RodMcGuire said,

    June 12, 2012 @ 9:30 pm

    And vinyl records are not exactly game animals

    Yeah? I believe they are related to the Nauga from which we get Naugahyde.

  18. Kenny Easwaran said,

    June 12, 2012 @ 9:55 pm

    On seeing someone mention "lego" I was reminded that "Euro" is also supposed to have a zero plural, despite also not being a game animal.

    If it turns out that most of the people talking about vinyl are far enough into the culture to pick up this zero plural, then I wonder if this will become a productive pattern for some category other than game animals.

  19. Faldone said,

    June 12, 2012 @ 10:19 pm

    I believe the rule for fish is: single species, multiple individuals, plural = fish; multiple species, multiple individuals, plural =

  20. steve downey said,

    June 12, 2012 @ 11:14 pm

    W.r.t game animals, when referring to several species of fish, fishes is conventionally used. E.g. "carp and catfish are fishes that do not have limits in these waters."

  21. Bruce said,

    June 12, 2012 @ 11:31 pm

    On countification, why is it that I hear people refer to 'two beer,' when referring to two bottles (of the same beer)?

    e.g. "I'd like two beer" and "Pass me two beer".

    I think I mainly observed this in Canada and possibly the USA. It seems wrong to me – I want it to either be a proper mass noun (in which case 'two bottles of beer') or it should be pluralized by adding an s.

  22. MattF said,

    June 12, 2012 @ 11:42 pm

    @Kenny Easwaran

    Hmm, So, "A $20 lunch costs $20" is spoken as "A twenty dollar lunch costs twenty dollars" but "A €20 lunch costs €20" is spoken as "A twenty euro lunch costs twenty euro"? I can see why the gods might be angry at the euro. And a 'Dollar Store' is a store where everything costs one dollar, and not a store where all prices are in dollars. What would a 'Euro Store' be?

  23. Spectre-7 said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 12:42 am

    What would a 'Euro Store' be?

    Well, I'd wager it's not in the native language of any country that uses the Euro, for one. ;)

  24. maidhc said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 12:59 am

    There was a sports commentator on the CBC back in the 1970s who went by the name of Joe Fan, and one of his peculiarities was that he always used the singular form of nouns in a plural context. Now I don't remember which form of the verb he used: "There were three good fight in the Leafs game last night" or "was". (But of course the Leafs, the Habs, etc. would still have to be plural.)

    In Irish (and presumably Scots Gaelic as well) if you specify a number, the noun is always singular. But whether this might have influenced English in Canada or the US is a question.

    To my way of thinking, the hippest plural for "vinyl" is "sides".

  25. Ian Tindale said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 1:41 am

    We should all immediately and henceforth adopt the usage of “vinylii”, in a knowing tone that implies that we know.

  26. Joshua said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 1:44 am

    Spectre-7: A Euro Store would be extremely unlikely in the UK … but quite plausible in Ireland, where English is an official language and the most common language.

    MattF: If a Euro Store was a store where everything cost one euro, it would probably have merchandise comparable to a Dollar Store in the U.S., since a euro is worth about US $1.25.

  27. Ben Hemmens said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 1:49 am

    The attempt to make "euro" a zero plural seems to have fizzled out. It was only adopted by the EU institutions and the Irish. The original reason was apparently to keep the design on the banknotes simple, though as the actual banknotes now have just two versions of the name (latin and greek), I can't quite follow this.
    Now the normal plural with s is official style.


  28. Richard Sabey said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 1:56 am

    Aren't these record-listening hipsters the people best placed to determine what the correct usage is? They use "vinyl" as plural. So the statement "the plural of vinyl is vinyl" is a correct descriptive statement about the usage of "vinyl", so stating that rule is not peeving.

    Even if it were a peeve, it would be atypical for a peeve: more typically, first, there is a pattern, then a usage emerges which doesn't fit that pattern, then peevers claim that this usage is wrong and that a usage which fits the pattern is right. It seems to me, judging by the peeves I come across, that arguing that a usage goes against tradition and logic is what peevers do.

    I think I'll go on calling them "records".

  29. Peter Taylor said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 2:04 am

    @Kenny Easwaran, as discussed previously in this blog.

    In my experience some Irish do use the zero plural for euro, but Brits don't. However, my experience is somewhat biased by the influence of the Spanish plural on most of the Brits I've heard discussing Eurozone prices.

    [(myl) Thanks for the link — I'd forgotten about the euro business.]

  30. Sinders said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 2:31 am

    Being cool, I say one vinyl, two vinylopedes.

  31. Max said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 3:14 am

    On seeing someone mention "lego" I was reminded that "Euro" is also supposed to have a zero plural, despite also not being a game animal.

    The zero plural of Euro is not entirely unprecedented — the plural of Rand is Rand (actually only with an amount: "What is five euro in rands?" but "It's about fifty rand"). This may have been for a similar reason, actually: to make the plural the same in all official languages.

    I've been told by several people that for computer mice, the plural of mouse is mouses. Where did this one come from?

  32. Chris said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 3:33 am

    I wonder how the "the plural of vinyl is vinyl" crowd pluralize words like film and tape.

    I had to think for a moment, incidentally, to decide whether I wanted crowd to take a singular or a plural verb in the preceding sentence.

  33. Mark Etherton said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 5:03 am

    The plural 'bloods' in the sense of 'people' is older than 'members of the gang': the OED cites Goldsmith (1762) for meaning 15a of 'blood', "A rowdy or foppish young man; a rake, a dandy", and the London Chronicle (1763) for meaning 15b "At public schools and some universities: a person whose dress or behaviour are emulated by others; a leader of fashion", and both quotations use 'bloods'. Indeed the OED adds that this meaning is frequently in the plural.

  34. Sandy Nicholson said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 5:19 am

    @maidhc: I believe you’re right about Irish numbers taking a singular noun, but (Scottish) Gaelic actually behaves differently.

    Roughly speaking, you use the singular form only after cardinal numerals 1, 20, 100 and 1000 (and it’s a lenited singular after 1); the dual form (nowadays a lenited dative or sometimes lenited nominative) is used after cardinal numeral 2; the plural appears elsewhere.

    The singular is actually used more than that description might suggest, as other numbers involve (or may involve) the singular-triggering numerals: 11 things = 1-thing-teen, 31 things = 1-thing-teen-on-twenty = 20-thing-and-one-teen, 45 things = two-20-thing-and-five, 200 things = two-100-thing, etc.

    There are also a handful of nouns that always appear in the singular after a numeral (but do have distinctive plural forms when used without a numeral).

    Back on topic, I’m very much in the mass-noun camp in my use of ‘vinyl’, except perhaps in a chemistry context (or maybe talking about some item of clothing, cf. leathers, rubbers, nylons). I still have a fairly large collection of records that happen to be made of the stuff. But if the CD/download generation have rediscovered records and want to call them vinyl, who am I to stop them? It does leave looking rather un-hip, though, doesn’t it.

  35. Nick Lamb said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 5:32 am

    Max, "computer people" have traditionally enjoyed playing with language.

    So yes, you'll see the plural mouses intentionally, you'll also see deliberately inappropriate mock Old English and non-English plurals such as vaxen or unices and we've been responsible for re-popularising and re-defining words like daemon or avatar.

    I'd like to think we don't take ourselves as seriously as the hipsters and that you couldn't expect to be "tarred and feathered" for using a perfectly sensible plural instead of going along with the joke. But I might be wrong.

  36. Marion Crane said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 5:56 am

    About the plural for Euro… I noticed last week that in my native Dutch I always say "twintig Euro", singular, but when I had to name prices in English my first instinct was to say "twenty Euros". Then I noticed everyone else around me was mixing it up, so stopped worrying about how I did it. The differences were probably because we had a couple of dozen nationalities there, half of which were not used to using Euros in the first place.

    And when we order drinks, we don't use the plural – unless we use the diminutive form. So, "twee bier" or "twee biertjes" but not "twee bieren".

    Also, if anyone said "twenty Euros" to me in Dutch, I'd assume they were talking about a pile of twenty €1 coins…

  37. Henning Makholm said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 5:59 am

    I wonder whether the zero plural of euro is related to the convention that units of measure are not pluralized (which seems to be followed in most languages, but rather thoroughly rejected by English).

  38. tk said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 6:30 am

    What I want to know is where these nuevo-cogniscentii get a turntable upon which to play their newly-purchased vinylii?

    (whose crates of vintage pre-1959 cranberries sit in a corner awaiting a new platter.)

  39. Dave K said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 6:30 am

    "Vinyls" may not be actual countification and more like what happened when the mass noun "glass" begat "glasses"–transferring the name from the substance to a particular object made of that substance.

  40. AlexB said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 6:46 am

    You can find high end turntables right here

    You may want to sit down when you find out about the price.

  41. Pete said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 6:58 am

    The reason Irish people use a zero plural on euro while British people use a regular plural is that the introduction of the euro was accompanied by a major ad campaign in Ireland to get people using the zero plural. I don't know if other Eurozone countries had a similar campaign but the UK certainly didn't, as it hasn't adopted the euro.

    Another example of a zero plural is cannon (as in "She had sixteen cannon on her port side"). It also alternates with regular cannons in everyday usage.

    [(myl) As far as I know, cannon is one of the sporadic zero-plural nouns here and there in the English lexicon: aircraft, series, chamois.

  42. linda seebach said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 7:10 am

    Isn't it common for adjective+noun combinations to be shortened to the adjective alone (floppy disk –> floppy) at which point the former adjective acquires a plural (floppy disks –> floppies)?

    [(myl) That's absolutely true. Whether by a process of phrasal truncation or not, zero-derived deadjectival nouns have long been common in English: sweet, good, flat, royal, … But in this case, vinyl starts out as a mass noun denoting a material, and then turns into a count count for a certain type of thing characteristically made from that material, like bronzes, tins, irons, rubbers, woods, etc. Since nouns denoting materials can also regularly be used as modifiers meaning "material made of", I guess it's possible that a phrasal truncation route plays a role in such cases.]

  43. Sili said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 7:13 am

    I'm amused that hipsters will publicly get so hung up on rules.
    I thought the whole concept was about being counter-culture and flouting the rules, but I guess I've misunderstood.

    They are indeed flaunting the rules.

  44. richard howland-bolton said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 7:16 am

    Or you could be more practical and look on Amazon. :-)
    They even have them with USB so you can skip right from vinylen to computerii and burn yourself some CD.

  45. Henry Clay said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 7:34 am

    @Nick Lamb, I don't think the "mouses" example has much to do with wordplay in the computer industry since the general pattern can be seen elsewhere. When a word with irregular forms gains a secondary meaning, there's a tendency to make it regular. You can see this with a baseball player who "flied out to center field" or in the widespread confusion back in the 80s over whether one owned two walkmen or two walkmans.

    This is often called Systematic regularization

  46. Morgan said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 8:04 am

    I wonder if what the various complainers linked here aren't trying to say IS that vinyl is a mass noun, but they don't have the right vocabulary. So what they're really complaining about is someone saying "you sure have a lot of vinyls" rather than "you sure have a lot of vinyl," and the reason they're complaining is because the former usage implies that "vinyl" is a countable noun such that each individual record would be one "vinyl." You're assuming that they do say "one vinyl" and are just bothered by one plural form versus another, but I'd want to see some instances of people actually using "vinyl" as a singular countable noun to mean "record" before I believe that. I don't hang around in a lot of heavily hipsterish circles, but it's not a usage I've ever heard.

    [(myl) You might be right, especially about how the idea got started. But there are plenty of hits out there now for things like "how many vinyl do you". And the ever-unreliable Urban Dictionary defines "vinyls" as "The improper way of saying more than one vinyl. To someone who collects records, it's one of the most annoying things."

    A few other examples:

    "I was lucky enough to be given a collection of metalheadz vinyl through someone that works for the label and had no use for them. All of these vinyl are therefore mint condition and have never been played!"

    "He created a list of rare Italo Disco jams that are of the greatest European Disco hits. These vinyl are considered among the most wanted and expensive records."

    "This was taken from a Vinyl recorded in 1976 from Crown Records, these vinyl were cheaply made and labeled Crown Records meaning back at the time that it was a budget label."

    "Reckless lacks the heart of my beloved Used Kids Records, but it gets the job done.  The selection here is gigantic.  The prices on some vinyl are a little inflated for my taste, but that's the cost of convenience."

    "Nat King Cole Golden Treasury 'Unforgettable' LPs.  This is a set of vinyl put out by The Longines Symphonette Society.  It is in "new" unopened condition.  The set has never been removed from factory seal.  Inside the seal is a letter from the Symphonette Society about joining a vinyl club.  Great find for any Nat King Cole fan.  I am unsure how many vinyl are included in the set."


  47. Army1987 said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 8:20 am

    Before the euro was introduced in Italy, there were discussions about whether to use the zero plural euro or the regular plural euri in Italian. The former completely prevails, with the latter being only ever used in jocular contexts. (But most words created by clipping the root of a longer word have zero plurals anyway.)

  48. Andrew (not the same one) said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 8:42 am

    'Legos' is indeed, from the point of view of my dialect, an American barbarism, but that does not mean that 'Lego' is a plural: 'Lego' is a mass noun. When one needs to refer to the individual units one calls them 'Lego bricks'.

    I suspect that this new peeve may originate from someone saying that 'vinyl' is a plural when what they really meant was that 'vinyl' is a mass noun, and this then being reinterpreted literally. (I think this way of speaking is quite common: 'plural' is interpreted as meaning 'word that denotes more than one object', rather than in terms of the word's grammatical behaviour.)

  49. Katje said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 8:48 am

    Huh. I had no idea that buying vinyl records was a thing amongst hipsters, let alone their having a peeve over how to pluralize "vinyl." I first started buying the things with my babysitting money in the 1980s, but I never said "I'm buying Doors vinyl[s]," it was always just "records." And I was more than happy to get rid of them all about 12 years ago in favor of CDs. (Will there one day be a generation of hipsters wearing t-shirts claiming that "the plural of CD is CD"?)

  50. Giacomo Ponzetto said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 9:01 am

    The preposterousness of the alleged "rule" is highlighted by an older and opposite pattern for describing almost the same object. Gramophone records used to be made of shellac, and they can also be called shellacs with a regular plural. Here is the OED:

    shellac, n.2. A gramophone record made of shellac.1954 Billboard 21 Aug. 18/2 Unless a publisher could get hold of an acetate of his song, he had to wait until the shellacs were ready.1977 G. V. Higgins Dreamland xvi. 180, I remember the phonograph playing… There was one tune… He played it all the time, scratchy and noisy as the old shellacs were.

  51. Anon said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 9:04 am

    '(Will there one day be a generation of hipsters wearing t-shirts claiming that "the plural of CD is CD"?)'

    Doubtful. CDs just don't have the analog mystique of LPs. (Although I suppose the newer records pressed to vinyl that these hipsters are buying are actually recorded digitally.)

  52. Victoria Simmons said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 9:11 am

    Katje: No, because CD sound (digital) is inferior to vinyl sound (analog). I do think there's retro snobbery involved, though, as in the current hipster fashion for the old-fashioned single-geared Schwinn with the basket on front.

    We use the plural 'shoes' and 'pants' (or 'trousers') in ordinary speech, but fashion people have developed a habit of saying things like "That would look good with a high-heeled shoe" (or a high heel) and "The collection needs a fashion-forward pant."

  53. Ellen K. said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 9:14 am

    What would a 'Euro Store' be?

    Well, I'd wager it's not in the native language of any country that uses the Euro, for one. ;)

    Ireland uses the Euro, and English is the primary language of the vast majority of the people there.

    And the store:

  54. languagehat said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 9:22 am

    Aren't these record-listening hipsters the people best placed to determine what the correct usage is? They use "vinyl" as plural. So the statement "the plural of vinyl is vinyl" is a correct descriptive statement about the usage of "vinyl", so stating that rule is not peeving.

    No, peeving is telling someone else they're using the "wrong" form instead of just noting silently that your own usage is not universal.

  55. Jon Weinberg said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 9:23 am

    It's plain from the examples above that Kids Today think it's wrong to use "vinyls" as a plural count noun. But I'm unclear whether they in fact use "vinyl" as a zero-plural count noun. That is, does anyone in this community actually say "I bought three vinyl" or "all of my vinyl are from the 1960s"? There aren't any such examples above — rather, one of the "plural of vinyl is vinyl" speakers (Zzz Records) goes out of its way not to treat vinyl as a count noun at all.

    [(myl) As noted above, there are plenty of hits out there now for things like "how many vinyl do you". And the ever-unreliable Urban Dictionary defines "vinyls" as "The improper way of saying more than one vinyl. To someone who collects records, it's one of the most annoying things."]

  56. Ellen K. said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 9:30 am

    Only 16 actual Google hits for "how many vinyl do you", and one of those is actually for "how many vinyl's do you".

  57. Dougal Stanton said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 9:39 am

    If this is a hipster thing, do we know what the group of people who have been reliably buying and using vinyl records call them, eg DJs, hip-hop artists and so on?

  58. Joe said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 10:24 am

    LEGO is a trademark. The Lego Company consistently refers to its building blocks as LEGO bricks — never "legos." This is similar to saying Kleenex tissues — or Xerox copies.

    In these cases the tendency is to refer to the generic product itself by the name of the most popular trademark on the market. This process transforms the trademark into what is known as a "generic trademark." Companies have incentive to fight this linguistic tendency, because generic trademarks enter the public domain.

    At any rate, these can all be distinguished from vinyl, which is not a trademark.

  59. Michael Cargal said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 10:26 am

    Don Sample: Among fishermen, "fish" in general is a mass noun, but types of fish are not. "How many fish did you catch today," but "fishes of the Sea of Cortez include dorado and tuna."

  60. Jerry Friedman said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 10:28 am

    @Ellen K.: For comparison, there are 60 hits on "How many vinyls do you". One is peeve like the ones above (from a record store) and one is a peeve against any countification of vinyl. The rest look like normal uses, as far as I can tell from the excerpts on the results page.

  61. Johanne D said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 10:31 am

    MattF : "What would a 'Euro Store' be?"

    In Spain, dollar stores used to be called "Todo a cien" ("everyting for 100 pesetas"). Recently I've seen "Todo a 2 euros", which I think confirms the general impression Spaniards have that the euro has led to inflation by rounding off ("redondeo").

    No time to do the math, though.

  62. Travis said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 10:35 am

    I think the bigger issue isn't vinyl vs. vinyls, it's that neither are correct.

    You don't have a vinyl, you have a record, or an LP that is MADE of vinyl.
    You're not wearing denims, you're wearing jeans that are MADE of denim.
    You didn't just purchase a worthless Blink 182 vinyl, you purchased a worthless Blink 182 record ON vinyl.
    You're not driving on a concrete, you're driving on a road that's MADE of concrete.

    You don't shop on Vinyl Store Day, you shop on Record Store Day. And the rest of us shop at the record store the other 364 days of the year to avoid you hipsters.

    [(myl) Congratulations! You win the Troll of the Week award, sub-category Meta-Peeving.]

  63. M. Drach said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 10:38 am

    The zero plural for "Euro" and "Cent" is the standard in German (at least in my regiolect), I imagine because "Mark" also has a zero plural.

    In fact, "Dollar" and "Pfund" (British pounds as well as the weight unit, and indeed units of measurement in general) also have a zero plural in German.

    "Euros" is only used when referring to, say, a group of individual coins. And by my grandfather for some reason.

  64. Robert Coren said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 10:41 am

    I was recently in Ireland for two weeks, and I can't recall hearing anyone use zero-plural "euro". Maybe I just wasn't paying attention, but since it had never occurred to me that the plural of "euro" was anything but "euros", I think I would have noticed if someone had said something like "ten euro".

  65. Michael Brett said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 11:02 am

    As a DJ and music collector, I most often use 'record', as in:

    I went record shopping today.

    Although I have from time to time, in response to questions, said:

    I own a ton of vinyl at home.

    Often that response comes from people who ask me the question:

    This is a lot of vinyl. Do you have a lot at home?

    I guess my point is, as much as I hate hipsters, I find that most of the gen pop I run into while DJing uses 'vinyl' as the plural because the actual form of the record (vinyl) is the source of their curiousity. Not the content (the actual 'record').

    Now, getting bent out of shape and raising a stink about 'vinyls'? That sounds like a very hipster thing to do. And now I will use vinyls all the time.

  66. Ben Hemmens said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 11:02 am

    Even before the euro, a zero-plural of pound was not uncommon in Ireland. Though the people who say "[multiple] euro" now are not necessarily the same ones who used to say "[multiple] pound".

    When you get a new currency, you also need new nicknames for it. "Quid" has gone out with the pound, but I've heard people referring to euros as "yoyos" (with a proper plural).

  67. Rod Johnson said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 11:18 am

    @Andrew (not the same one): 'Legos' is indeed, from the point of view of my dialect, an American barbarism, but that does not mean that 'Lego' is a plural

    I didn't suggest it was. The similarities were the zero form and the vehemence.

    @Max: The zero plural of Euro is not entirely unprecedented — the plural of Rand is Rand (actually only with an amount: "What is five euro in rands?" but "It's about fifty rand").

    It's pretty common, albeit unsystematically, for some units of measure to have zero plurals, at least in some varieties of AmE. this wall is two foot thick and nine foot tall but not *this wall is two inch thick and three yard tall, even in pretty informal registers. There's a lot of variation here, but: years, days, miles, weeks? I think BrE stone is always zero plural.

  68. Rod Johnson said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 11:22 am

    Sorry, my "ten mile away" link is borked.

  69. John said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 11:33 am

    @Henry Clay: You read different sports pages than I. I'm always tripping over "X flew out to right" and having to scratch the image of a winged batter.

  70. HP said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 11:34 am

    If I were a peever, I'd peeve against the use of vinyl to refer to a single, specific recording. That's what sounds odd to my ear, and the usage that sets up vinyls as a natural consequence.

    As others have pointed out, the use of vinyl as a mass noun ("that's a lot of vinyl") and as a description of the recording medium ("I have that album on vinyl") goes back decades — very close to the introduction of LPs themselves.

    I wonder what collectors of Edison cylinders peeve about? ("Just picked up a box of mint cylinder at an estate sale.")

  71. Jon Lennox said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 11:46 am

    HP: The sentence "that's a lot of vinyl" doesn't preclude vinyl being a zero-plural count noun (e.g., "that's a lot of buffalo".)

    A better example would be "you can never have too much vinyl."

  72. KevinM said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 11:58 am

    @Marion Crane re: "twee bieren".
    I would expect hipsters to consume twee beers.

  73. Mark F. said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 11:59 am

    Regarding in-group linguistic snobbery — It at least used to be a shibboleth of science fiction fandom that it was sf or SF, but never sci-fi. I'm not sure how true that is any more; I've met more committed fans than me who called it sci-fi.

  74. KevinM said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 12:02 pm

    Collective vinyl might derive from 1950s-60s DJs' earlier use of "wax" (an ironic reference to already-obsolete wax cylinder recordings). Multiple records weren't called "waxes." The plural of "wax" was "stacks of wax."

  75. BZ said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 12:05 pm

    I seem to recall that (at least at one point in history) Microsoft decided that the plural of (computer) mouse was mouse devices since nobody could agree on mice vs mouses. Nowadays I can't imagine anyone saying mouses. Things like boxen and unices are jokes not to be taken seriously, though there is a curious choice of indexes instead of indices in the database world.

  76. Jonathan Mayhew said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 12:15 pm

    Step one: metonymy: substitute the material for the object.

    Step two: once the object is named a "vinyl," it becomes almost automatically countifiable. Once I am drinking "a beer," I can drink two beers.

    Why the metonymy? Because the most distinctive thing about the object is that is an old style vinyl lp, and not a cd. When that was the standard format we called them "records," "albums," "record albums," or "lps," another short hand metonymy that emerged with a format change.

  77. dw said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 12:20 pm

    @Victoria Simmons:
    CD sound (digital) is inferior to vinyl sound (analog).

    Translation: "the warm fuzzy placebo effect I get from believing that I'm listening to vinyl makes me feel good".

    Or, just possibly, "I like the distortion inherent in vinyl sound reproduction, which can if desired be fully replicated in a digital/CD recording".

    See for more.

  78. Rod Johnson said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 12:26 pm

    Oh, please let's not have the vinyl vs. digital discussion here.

    [(myl) Indeed, let's not. But note that the discussion is analog vs. digital, not vinyl vs. digital. You could perfectly well encode a digital signal in a microgroove vinyl record — though it would be a stupid thing to do.]

  79. David Walker said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 12:37 pm

    Vinyl, like plastic, is a mass noun, especially in its molten or pre-poured state. Calling a record "a vinyl" is what's pretentious. A record is made of vinyl; I would not call it a vinyl. I wouoldn't call a CD a … whatever it's made of.

    Saying "I bought 4 vinyl" just sounds stupid.

    But then, I'm not a millenium hipster.

  80. Matt McIrvin said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 1:02 pm

    @Joe: In fact, I believe I've read materials from the Lego corporation explicitly urging customers to say "LEGO bricks" or "LEGO Brand Building Bricks" instead of "Legos", for that very reason.

    I've always figured I am in no way bound to respect their trademark-dilution fears, especially considering the way they keep trying to abuse trademark law to enforce long-expired patents against their competitors. But I think I say "Lego bricks" most of the time anyway.

  81. Joseph F Foster said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 1:12 pm

    Ian Tindale, way up above, suggested that "we should…adopt the usage of "vinylii" in a knowing tone…." . Good idea and I offer a friendly ammendment. Since one of the things is usual an album and therefore a collection, we can really show our in-group snobbery by using the collective plural of vinyl for these alba, namely ,i>vinyla . Shall we discuss it over ice cream?

    And why do / does the Executive Council of Yurp think they can legislate and decree what we in English call their unit of currency. I'll say "Euros" if I damned well please and refer Their Arrogancies to the Declaration of Independence.

  82. Mahon said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 1:31 pm

    Jeez, people.

    "Vinyl" is a kind of plastic, like polypropylene, and does not have a plural. But "a vinyl" is short for "a vinyl record" and as such is really a different word, which is no longer a mass noun and can have a legitimate plural. This would most naturally be vinyls, short for "vinyl (record)s." In the same way, "paper" is a material and has no plural. However, if you have more than one subscription you may go get the "papers" off the porch without being attacked by grammarians. And a teacher may grade several "papers" after an exam. The only difference is that the non-mass use of that word has been around a lot longer.

  83. David L said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 1:41 pm

    In case there's any doubt about the hipstery peevishness going on here, Salon published "down with fascist iPods" yesterday.

    Sadly, I am so out of touch that I cannot tell whether this is meant to tongue-in-cheek or not. Or serious but kind of pretending to be tongue-in-cheek, so as to have deniability.

  84. BobC said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 2:05 pm

    I just can't seem to disabuse myself of the notion that if an X is the name of an object made of X (iron, glass, wood [the golf club], rubber), then the plural should be X(e)s.

  85. Gordon Campbell said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 2:37 pm

    So, bringing together the strands of this conversation, plurals, currency, and calling stuff by what it’s made of: nickels. We don’t have them in Australia. We have 5-cent pieces, or, as my kids call them, ‘five-centses’ ; e.g ‘I have four five-centses’. We don’t pay them much.

  86. Gordon Campbell said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 2:41 pm

    Mass noun for five-centses = shrapnel

  87. Howard Oakley said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 3:16 pm

    'Bloods' as a contraction of 'blood tests' or 'blood samples' is in very wide currency throughout the UK healthcare sector.

    I thought just recently that the singular and plural of 'Euro' had become 'uro' :-)


  88. Victoria Simmons said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 4:08 pm

    dw: Or it means "What jazz musicians and classical music aficionados have told me, while I have no particular preference myself, having given away my LP collection almost 20 years ago."

    I have been fascinated for years by the process by which the term 'CD' became the dominant term. In days of yore a new collection of songs by an artist was promoted as a 'new album' more often than as a 'new LP' or a 'new record,' but as the CD format was introduced albums were promoted as "a new CD by so-and-so," and the word 'album' has become a secondary term at best. Even granting the extent to which what is new is what is stressed, the word 'CD' used in advertising promoting new albums always felt like a music industry policy to shove the new format through more quickly. Even deejays immediately began referring to albums as 'CDs,' and I used to hear them sometimes say 'CD' even when it was an older album not yet available on CD.

  89. Ben Hemmens said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 4:08 pm

    And why do / does the Executive Council of Yurp think they can legislate and decree what we in English call their unit of currency.

    Well, because
    – it's their currency,
    – English is used as a working language in their institutions (and throughout the Union of about 450 million people),
    – they happen to have the biggest operation for high-quality multilingual production of legal texts in the world and
    – they need to have style guides for the people working in it.

    They don't actually care what British people call it in everyday usage, nor have they ever tried to regulate that.

  90. Andy Averill said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 5:21 pm

    I'm getting my signals crossed on the descriptivist/peever aspect of all this. A descriptivist should only be concerned with what the prevailing usage is (or what the proportion is between alternatives). And we can all name many cases where special interest groups have been able to impose their terminological preferences on the rest of us. If the hipsters prevail, "vinyls" will become non-standard; if not, not. But for the moment, isn't it too early to call anybody a peever?

    [(myl) Languagehat tried this definition: "peeving is telling someone else they're using the 'wrong' form instead of just noting silently that your own usage is not universal."

    I'd remove the "silently" — I don't think it amounts to peeving if you tell someone "Gee, it's interesting that you say X, I would have expressed it as Y". Nor, for that matter, is it peeving if you tell someone something like "the standard spelling is 'independent', not 'independant"" (as I in effect did in the original post).

    The essence of what we've come to call "peeving", it seems to me, is complaining in a bitter or angry way that someone's usage is Wrong, when that usage is common in some regions or registers, perhaps even in the standard written language.

    And by that definition, the complaints about "vinyls" are definitely peeving.]

  91. a George said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 5:44 pm

    @ KevinM (no. 74): a bit of etymology and terminology as opposed to folk etymology: the wax refers to the material that the disc recording was cut in. This was in use for mastering flat discs from 1900-1950 (some latitude here!). Again, that was actually a misnomer, because for most of the period the substance only had a minute quantity of wax, almost all of it was a so-called metal soap, manufactured in a cauldron. Another misnomer is the use of the term “acetate” [@Giacomo Ponzetto (no. 50) quoting the OED] for the lacquer disc that replaced wax from 1950 and which is still in use for mastering vinyls. Only the lacquer discs for home recording were made in the non-inflammable cellulose acetate – professional ones were and are made of cellulose nitrate. But collectors still talk about markings “in the wax” when referring to the numbers and other identification you find just outside the label.

    Now, after the coarse-groove, approximately 78 revolutions per minute (RPM) shellac-binder records (80% of it was a mineral powder!) came the microgroove record ca. 1950, in two forms: Long Play (LP) at 33 1/3 RPM, generally 10 and 12 inch diameter and singles and Extended Play (EP), the last two having 7 inch diameter and generally 45 RPM. These microgroove records were at first made in a variety of plastics, frequently polystyrene for 45 RPM. Polyvinyl chloride, called Vinyl, was very well suited to the manufacturing process of pressing records and was and is used for LPs. When the change from coarse-groove to microgroove happened in the early 1950s, the term for the old was SP (Standard Play), an expression still used in Japan, and N (normal) in Germany, whereas the new was LP and M (microgroove).

    If you have come this far you already know much more than you want, but for proper context I could recommend a potted history, the chapter “The development of recording technologies” in “The Cambridge Companion to Recorded Music”, CUP 2009.

  92. Jon said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 5:46 pm

    I call them PVCs, because that's what 'vinyl' records are actually made of. But that's just me being curmudgeonly about daft fashions. When I heard that BBC radio 6, a digital radio station, was running a vinyl season, I turned my face to the wall in despair.

    Incidentally, I heard a radio item about the 'dramatic increase' in the popularity of vinyl records. A couple of facts emerged: the proportion of the music market that is on vinyl is tiny, about 2% if I remember right, and a vinyl retailer reported that some of his customers did not possess turntables, and didn't intend to buy them. The records were not for listening to.

  93. Danny said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 6:41 pm

    Lovely timing; last week a friend showed me a worksheet from her child's primary school that listed several mass nouns as 'plurals,' and we weren't able to articulate clearly what we felt was wrong with that.

    From that list, a potentially uncountifiable mass noun: homework.

  94. Jim said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 7:22 pm

    I say "vinyl" isn't a noun at all here, it is an adjective with an invisible/assumed noun ("record"). We don't change word form for adjectives when the noun goes plural, so "vinyl" doesn't change when the invisible actual noun is plural.

    [(myl) But the plural of floppy (disc) is (or was) "floppies". The plural of Russian (person) is "Russians". The plural of periodical (publication) is "periodicals". And so on — can you think of *any* examples that work the way that your theory predicts? The only ones that I can think of are ethnonyms in -ese, like Japanese.]

  95. Steve Morrison said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 8:01 pm

    I'd like to think we don't take ourselves as seriously as the hipsters and that you couldn't expect to be "tarred and feathered" for using a perfectly sensible plural instead of going along with the joke. But I might be wrong.

    I've just created the file "Max.tar.gz", so Max did indeed have reason to fear being tarred and feathered.

  96. EndlessWaves said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 8:44 pm

    Ah, but are they Vinyl disks or Vinyl discs?

    On a related note, I've heard the term 'records store' as well as 'record store' but never came across 'CDs store' or 'Discs store', only 'CD store'.

  97. Keith said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 8:49 pm

    And is the pronunciation /ˈvaɪ.nəl/, /ˈvi.nəl/, /ˈvɪ.nɨl/, or something else altogether?


  98. maidhc said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 9:02 pm

    The term "album" referring to an LP is a hold-over from the days of the 78 RPM record. When records were limited to 3 minutes a side or so, it would take several disks to hold something like a symphony. They were sold in albums that had a nice cover, perhaps a few pages of printed notes in later years, and your disks, each in a sturdy paper sleeve and all bound together like a book (or photo album).

    LPs were not not really albums because there was typically just one disk inside a cardboard sleeve.

  99. Joe Green said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 9:21 pm

    @BZ: "curious choice of indexes instead of indices in the database world"

    Indexes and indices are two different things.

    [0], [1], [2]… these are indices. They are connected, related.

    I have many books (book? paper?) each of which has an index. These are indexes. They are unconnected examples of the same kind of thing.

    In the database world, an index serves to index a column (or columns), just as an index serves to index a book. Hence, collectively, they are indexes.

  100. Joe Green said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 9:28 pm

    @myl: and on a connected note, "cannons" definitely does exist as a plural. A ship might well have "eight cannon", but a few scattered instances (say, at a museum) would be "cannons". I think this is the same kind of duality as fish/fishes.

    Meanwhile I've never heard anyone refer to computer mouses, not even jocularly.

    "Dear Sir, I have a large black disc with a hole in the middle. Is this a vinyl?" Nah, doesn't work, does it?

  101. Marc said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 10:01 pm

    How many shibboleths shibboleth does it take to define a hipster subculture?

  102. Victoria Simmons said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 10:30 pm

    Maidhc: I'm not disputing why LPs were called 'albums,' but since an album was originally a blank tablet used to record lists, and has since been used in a variety of ways (although admittedly usually of multi-leaved "books") the word seems perfectly appropriate to be used of a collection of songs itself, whatever the format or style of packaging.

    My record-store friend says some of his customers refer to turntables as "vinyl players." This annoys him.

    He also said that he can't stand the word "vinyls," but that he would never say he had bought "several vinyl." He says that he might say "I decided to see how much vinyl I had," but not "how many vinyl," and that when specific quantities are involved he uses the words 'records' or 'LPs.' But then he isn't young enough to be a hipster.

  103. Marc said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 10:33 pm

    It's almost the reverse of saying "pant" to mean "pair of pants". I'm sure I've heard that from some fashionista or other using the term on some reality show. Although, I can't quite imagine the same level of peeving in that case.

  104. Brett said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 11:05 pm

    @Victoria Simmons: The term "album" drew a distinction between different types of records,. but that distinction no longer exists with compact disks. There was a long period when people purchased vinyl singles as well as albums (made up of multiple songs). The singles might either be 78s or, as the 78s became more obsolete, 33s of a smaller size than the standard LP. However, with CDs, there was never really any reason to record less than a full album on a commercially available disk. So the distinction that "album" drew was no longer relevant.

  105. Jerry Friedman said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 11:20 pm

    @Danny: I remember hearing and possibly saying "homeworks" for "homework assignments" in college and grad school in the '80s. If you search for "two homeworks" (with the quotation marks), you'll see that it's still around.

  106. Jerry Friedman said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 11:35 pm

    The most parallel formation I can think of is the use of "gold" for "gold pieces", and likewise for other metals, in fantasy RPGs. For example, Make A Thousand Gold at Level 5. This has been going on at least since I was playing AD&D(TM) instead of doing my physics homeworks. Steven Brust uses it in his gritty fantasy (or maybe science fiction—I'm one of those who don't say "scifi") novels: "After a long time, I said, 'Arrange for ten thousand gold for his widow.'"

    I wonder whether this has anything to do with using "rand" as a plural or with using "cash" as a plural for some unit of currency in translations from Chinese. Or with the zero plurals of some units of measure as mentioned above, since units of currency are something like units of measure. And is it "10 gigs" or "10 gig"?

  107. Joe Green said,

    June 14, 2012 @ 12:13 am

    @Brett: "However, with CDs, there was never really any reason to record less than a full album on a commercially available disk". Au contraire, the record shops, er I mean the CD/DVD shops, have plenty of CD singles available. Granted they stretch the notion of a "single" well past the vinyl one-on-each-side, but they are (a) cheaper than albums, er I mean LP CDs, and (b) what the charts are based on, I imagine. So quite significant to corporation and to artist.

  108. markzip said,

    June 14, 2012 @ 12:17 am

    I sell vinyl records, and have done for many years.

    I am a record dealer, not a vinyl dealer. I think a vinyl dealer has more to do with siding.

    Most records I sell are 10 or 12 inches wide and spin at 33rpm. People often call them "albums". I will sell you an album, a 10 inch or a record. I will not sell you "a 33".

    Some records I sell are 7 inches wide. Most spin at 45rpm. People call them "singles". I will sell you a single, a 45 or a 7 inch. No, I don't know why I cannot sell you "a 33" but I can sell you "a 45".

    Others records are 12 inches in diameter but contain only a few songs or versions of a single song. They spin at 33 or 45 (and occasionally both). People call these "12 inch singles". I will sell you a 12 inch.

    A tiny number of the records I sell are made of shellac (generally 78 rpm items)

    I will never sell you "a vinyl". I may sell you "a record". Records may be made of vinyl, they are never "vinyls".

    You may have a lot of records on your shelves and you could therefore say that you have a lot of vinyl on your shelves, but you do not have "lots of vinyls".

    The problem with the statement "The plural of vinyl is vinyl" is the implication that there must therefore be a singular, and that the singular is vinyl. There is no such thing as "a vinyl".

  109. The birth of a shibboleth said,

    June 14, 2012 @ 3:54 am

    […] vinyl record" appears to have a relatively recent shibboleth associated with it. According to Mark Liberman of Language Log, some collectors of such records insist that "the plural of vinyl is vinyl" and that […]

  110. Victoria Simmons said,

    June 14, 2012 @ 4:25 am

    @Brett: And yet there are CD singles and CD EPs. If 'CD' is used by itself, it is assumed that it is a certain number of songs (dare I say 'album'?) that is meant.

  111. James said,

    June 14, 2012 @ 5:48 am

    This whole thing is just bollocks in my opinion. Vinyl records are not called "Vinyl", they are called "Record's" or "LP's".

    Called a Record a Vinyl is the equivalent of calling a CD a Plastic.

    [(myl) Sit down, have a soothing cup of tea, and consider — do you also think that:

    * Calling a sealed can of food a "tin" is just bollocks
    * Calling a metal statue a "bronze" is just bollocks.
    * Calling an American five-cent coin a "nickel" is just bollocks.
    * Calling a transparent drinking vessel a "glass" is just bollocks.
    * Calling a wooden-headed golf club a "wood" is just bollocks.
    * Calling a metal-headed golf club an "iron" is just bollocks.

    And so on. This is something that happens, sometimes. You need to accept it and move on.]

  112. Army1987 said,

    June 14, 2012 @ 5:57 am

    @Ben Hemmens

    Quid" has gone out with the pound

    Huh? when I was in Ireland I heard people referring to euros as quid all the time.

  113. Brett said,

    June 14, 2012 @ 8:58 am

    @Victoria Simmons, Joe Green: While CD singles certainly exist, I have always perceived them as a holdover from the vinyl era. For instance, I have never known anybody to purchase or play one, except for copies sent by the labels to newspapers, in the hope that they would be reviewed. However, as she reads over my shoulder, my wife now tells me that she has had different experiences.

  114. Barney said,

    June 14, 2012 @ 9:21 am

    @Brett: Your experience of people not buying or not buying CD singles is not a good guide to the general trend. Music related habits vary hugely by social group, and a lot of the people you know are likely to be similar to you in many relevant ways.

  115. Carl said,

    June 14, 2012 @ 12:41 pm

    For me, the most convincing derivation relates to (many of) the known zero-plurals: fish, shrimp, deer, buffalo, … You have a mass of otherwise countable items of a class, but you don't care about the individual characteristics of each item. Only class membership is important. When you want to acknowledge internal differences, either between individuals or sub-classes, you can't use the zero-plural. (Of course that doesn't work quite the same way for e.g. Chinese, and this had probably been studied by actual scholars somewhere instead of armchair amateurs like me, but why should I let ignorance stop me?)

    My own idiosyncratic use of that approach relates to books I've received from book clubs which I have no interest in but am unable to return, such as Star Wars novels and Mercedes Lackey fantasy product. I have a lot of books, plus a few cubic feet of discardable book. Unfortunately, that usage hasn't caught on; maybe I need to do some public peeving on the subject.

  116. Katje said,

    June 14, 2012 @ 2:20 pm

    Something else that occurs to me: "nylons" is also used to mean "pantyhose." Maybe people are worried about having their hipster, audiophile record collections confused with women's hosiery.

  117. Victoria Simmons said,

    June 14, 2012 @ 3:22 pm

    Travis: "You're not wearing denims, you're wearing jeans that are MADE of denim."

    There's no difference between wearing denims and wearing jeans. Jean is a type of twilled cotton cloth.

  118. Victoria Simmons said,

    June 14, 2012 @ 3:33 pm

    Brett: I used to work in a bookstore that about five years ago was selling CD singles, and it didn't seem to me that they were very popular. I would think that for individual songs, people are more likely to download them. I would guess that most of them in circulation are promotional, but I have no information to back up that notion.

    Many groups, however, come out with EPs, because it's a way of getting a few examples of the best of your work out there at a lower price. What's interesting is that with music online (such as iTunes), the music is still promoted and sold as singles (individual songs), EPs, and albums, even though there is nothing physical. So far at least, music acts and the recording industry are continuing with the model of releasing songs in batches, and calling them EPs and albums, and online distributors follow suit. It would be interesting to see what would happen, though, if physical media went away altogether. Would acts release each song for downloading as they finish post-production on it?

  119. David Walker said,

    June 14, 2012 @ 4:13 pm

    When will we have mass-market, affordable "record players" that use lasers to read the grooves, so that we can play all of our multiple vinyl without damaging the grooves?

    [(myl) Mass market and affordable it's not, but the laser turntable certainly exists. At prices between $8K and $15K, it's less expensive than some turntables that use physical needle contact.]

  120. Stephen B. said,

    June 14, 2012 @ 5:17 pm

    Here's what might be happening. Using "vinyl" to refer to a record is an instance of metonymy. But using "vinyl" to refer to two or more records is a separate instance of metonymy, this time referring to the collection (a singular noun). Both instances have become a part of hipster slang. You might say, "I bought a vinyl at the record store." While visiting a friend and admiring her record collection, you might say, "Wow, you've got some serious vinyl here." But the second metonymy, though consistent use in hipster cant, may be misinterpreted as the plural form of the first, which leads to weird constructions like "Your vinyl are totally sweet."

    As a parallel, a member of a completely different sub-culture might show off his sword collection by saying, "Check out my steel." He would never say, "Check out my steels."

  121. Danny said,

    June 14, 2012 @ 5:53 pm

    @ Jerry Friedman: thanks for the 'homeworks' tip; I'm quite happy to say that sounds bizarre to me.

    Searching for "three homeworks" led to a BBC 'grammar challenge' PDF which claimed it was a mistake (as indeed does my computer's spell-checker), but listed some other "uncountable nouns," naming accommodation, information, equipment, furniture, pollution, patience, luggage, weather, rubbish, and advice. (Apologies to the sensitive for the Oxford comma.)

    I've certainly made accommodations in all weathers, and googling many of the others presented a multitude of results— even if some of them look very much like translation software artefacts—but '[number] patience' didn't show up after several pages of my amateurish checking.

    I also could not find examples of two, three, or some 'rubbishes', but the first hit for 'many rubbishes' was the delightful "Let's Wish China Won't Make Too Many Rubbishes in The Outer Space".

    So, uncountifiable rubbish, anyone? Or should we have patience?

    [(myl) Jack Kerouac, On The Road:

    In the gray dawn that puffed ghostlike about the windows of the theater and hugged its eaves I was sleeping with my head on the wooden arm of a seat as six attendants of the theater converged with their nights' total of swept-up rubbish and created a huge dusty pile that reached to my nose as I snored head down — till they almost swept me away too. This was reported to me by Neal who was watching from ten seats behind. All the cigarette butts, the bottles, the matchbooks, the come and the gone was swept up in this pile. Had they taken me with it Neal would have never seen me again. He would have to roam the entire United States and look in every garbage pail from coast to coast before he found me embryonically convoluted among the rubbishes of my life, his life and the life of everybody concerned and not concerned. What would I have said to him from my rubbish womb. "Don't bother me, man, I'm happy where I am."

    Helene Cixous, 'Coming to Writing' and Other Essays:

    There is a patience for the egg, a patience for a rose; a patience for each particular animal; there is a patience for species, all kinds of patiences, to practice, to develop; I have some patiences that are ready to ripen, others that are germinating, other that seem not to have taken root; and it seems to me that certain clarices have worked their earth of beings so deeply that all the patiences have bloomed there. Patiences are birth-givers.


  122. Anthony said,

    June 14, 2012 @ 7:48 pm


    I say "vinyl" isn't a noun at all here, it is an adjective with an invisible/assumed noun ("record"). We don't change word form for adjectives when the noun goes plural, so "vinyl" doesn't change when the invisible actual noun is plural.

    The transformation is as follows – silent parts in parentheses:

    Vinyl (record)
    Vinyl (record)s

  123. Katje said,

    June 14, 2012 @ 7:55 pm

    [Please disregard my comment above about "nylons." I'm not sure why my brain decided to leap from "vinyls" to "nylons," but I'm glad my pantyhose are not made of vinyl.]

  124. marie-lucie said,

    June 14, 2012 @ 9:04 pm

    Someone above compared "vinyl" to "plastic", a good analogy. The word "plastic" is often used as a generic for "credit cards", as in "I don't carry much cash, I use plastic", or, remarking on a wallet overflowing with cards: "You've got a lot of plastic there!" But I don't think "plastic" in this sense has evolved into a countable noun: no one says "I'll use one of my plastics". If this evolution does occur, one would expect the plural to be "plastics", as with "glasses" and other words as pointed out by several commenters. "Plural 'vinyl'" sounds artificial since it goes counter to a long-existing process of mass to countable conversion.

    Euro(s): Even though the currency circulates freely within the eurozone, each country produces its own version of the notes and coins, which are accepted in the other countries. Using a single official form "euro" avoided the problems caused by different ways of forming plurals in different languages (euros, euri, euro, etc). Prescribing this use for ordinary language was not such a good idea, and that's why the rule has been relaxed.

  125. D Sky Onosson said,

    June 14, 2012 @ 11:41 pm

    What if you have two vinyl copies of Divinyls?

  126. Picky said,

    June 15, 2012 @ 5:08 am

    There's a business card pinned above my desk, which must have been put there when I was rich and contemplating home improvement, which advertises "CARPETS, VINYLS, LAMINATES, OAK FLOORS & VINYL TILES".

  127. (another) Jerry said,

    June 15, 2012 @ 11:58 am

    @Joe Green : most database systems do indeed use "indexes", but, I recall that the Britton-Lee (later ShareBase) DB engine had a table called sysindices. When some of the same team created Sybase, most of the system tables had identical names, except for sysindexes. I suspect the change was for enhanced consistency, sysindices was the only table where the name of the primary key (index_id) was not determinable from the name of the table.

    Obviously use of indexes in computing (e.g., in hierarchical databases) may long pre-date the early 1980s, but I have no direct knowledge of earlier uses. AFAIK there is no resource comparable to the Jargon File for commercial computing and data processing.

    @Howard Oakley: I agree: 'bloods' is commonly used in hospital haematology and pathology labs, meaning, of course, 'blood samples'. Certainly, in the lab where I worked, it was in daily use during the early '80s.

  128. David Walker said,

    June 15, 2012 @ 12:19 pm

    Of course, one of the more famous uses of the word "plastics" was in "The Graduate" with a young Dustin Hoffman as Benjamin:

    Mr. McGuire: I just want to say one word to you. Just one word.
    Benjamin: Yes, sir.
    Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
    Benjamin: Yes, I am.
    Mr. McGuire: Plastics.

  129. David Walker said,

    June 15, 2012 @ 12:20 pm

    "I have some patiences that are ready to ripen"?? That's a cool phrase!

  130. David Walker said,

    June 15, 2012 @ 12:25 pm

    @Mark Liberman: If we can send a man to the moon, and build a laser mouse for $10, and a laser CD-reader for $50, surely someone can build a $200 to $500 turntable that uses laser(s) to read the grooves from the "vinyls".

    That's a cool link that you sent, and I see that it uses 5 lasers. Still, between $8K and $15K is not affordable for most people.

    I suspect there would be a large market if something like this could be built to sell for somewhere between $200 and $500. I might even buy one.

  131. LH said,

    June 15, 2012 @ 12:29 pm

    The true snobs among us will know that the proper term for a full-length album released on vinyl is 'LP.' And when I go to a hipster record shop, I buy multiple LPs. If you don't feel like outing yourself as a total arse-hat, the term to use is "record." Vinyl records. Records. Whatever you wanna call 'em.

  132. Russell said,

    June 15, 2012 @ 1:40 pm

    @ marie-lucie

    Though I find it highly odd, countable plastic 'credit/debit card' does seem to happen.

    – An unsuitable reward credit card can bring financial troubles, as a plastic with rewards, as a rule, has high interest rates.

    – You have good credit and now you can choose a plastic from a wide range of credit card offers.

    But Google has given me some truly ridiculous results:

    – You are given the opportunity to select any reward plastic.

    What the? Anyway, a lot of the ghits are from possibly sketchy credit card advice sites, possibly from non-native speakers, but some seem to be regular old blogs.

  133. Victoria Simmons said,

    June 15, 2012 @ 4:28 pm

    "You are given the opportunity to select any reward plastic."

    Is this a reference to credit-card rewards tie-ins, such as frequent flier miles? Or is it a reference to the rewards cards that many retailers offer that supposedly give you perks for shopping at their stores?

    I've never heard the later referred to as plastic, much less plastics, but I wouldn't be a bit surprised. (I know some adults who give the extra copy to their small children to keep as pretend credit cards. Like THAT'S a good idea. . .)

  134. suntzuanime said,

    June 15, 2012 @ 5:59 pm

    In my own particular snobbish aesthetic subculture, the plural of "anime" is "anime", so maybe there is some regularity here after all!

  135. Victoria Simmons said,

    June 15, 2012 @ 11:01 pm


    Isn't the plural of samurai, samurai? And the plural of ninja, ninja? My three minutes of research on the internet persuades me that most Japanese plural nouns take zero-plural forms. I especially like this site, which seems to have been created by a generic language-teaching program. "It's very important to understand how the plural is used in everyday Japanese!" And then lists where the plural is the same as the singular.

    I think with "s. anime, pl. anime" the zero-plural form shows consistency in adopting nouns from Japanese, rather than consistency across snobbish aesthetic subcultures.

  136. Bob Violence said,

    June 16, 2012 @ 12:40 am

    Isn't the plural of samurai, samurai? And the plural of ninja, ninja?

    In Japanese, yes. But the source language isn't the sole determiner of the English plural forms–it's not like you hear people going around on a regular basis ordering "three large pizze." To my ear, "samurais" and especially "animes" sound weird (I notice that "animes" triggers Firefox's spellchecker), but "ninjas" sounds perfectly normal, perhaps because it's especially prevalent in English and has undergone a more thorough "countification."

  137. Bob Violence said,

    June 16, 2012 @ 1:03 am


    You could perfectly well encode a digital signal in a microgroove vinyl record — though it would be a stupid thing to do.

    This has in fact been done, though for extremely limited purposes. Special vinyl(s) with binary timecode signals are used with vinyl emulation software like Final Scratch and Torq.

  138. bingobangoboy said,

    June 16, 2012 @ 3:48 am

    Other instances of encoding digital information in the groove of a music record (beginning in the 1970s!) are documented here:

  139. Victoria Simmons said,

    June 16, 2012 @ 6:24 pm


    Googling "many ninjas," I get 61,500 ghits. Googling "many ninja," I get 82,100. So I would say the two forms are roughly equally familiar to English speakers, with the Japanese plural having a possible edge.

  140. Thomas said,

    June 16, 2012 @ 11:11 pm

    I find it interesting that the people speaking out about "proper usage" of the word vinyl are so unconcerned about other prescriptivist rules.

    For example:
    "Cos" for because
    lower-case "i"
    sentence fragments
    (check the first few examples)

    Therefore, it seems as if the in-group is really displaying both a rebellion against prescriptivist norms while at the same time creating their own prescriptivist solidarity. Vinyl/vinyls is a modern shibboleth. You are either in or out, and this group is clearly defining itself.

  141. Bob Violence said,

    June 16, 2012 @ 11:45 pm

    The problem with that comparison is that a huge number of the "many ninja" results are part of other phrases — the first page shows only two uses of "many ninja" as in "a lot of ninja," while the rest are things like "many ninja Gaiden 3 owners," "too many ninja threads," "how many ninja Turtles are there," etc. Randomly jumping to page 8, I again see only two "genuine" uses of "many ninja." "Many ninjas" doesn't pose quite the same the problem, although a major proportion of the results are related to a Flash game called "Too Many Ninjas."

  142. Victoria Simmons said,

    June 17, 2012 @ 3:34 am

    @Bob Violence

    Oh, dear, that is a problem. I've been trying to think of a different string to use, but they're all susceptible to the same limitation. Stupid noun-adjectives. . .

  143. Jon Weinberg said,

    June 17, 2012 @ 7:38 pm

    BV & VS, there are Japanese-derived words that plainly take an "s" plural in English — folks uniformly seem to use "futons" as the plural of "futon". On the other hand, there seems to be a 60-40 split on whether "haikus" is the plural of "haiku".

  144. Danny said,

    June 18, 2012 @ 8:46 am

    tNo-one says either "three vinyl" or "three vinyls" so I'm not sure where you're going with this one. Vinyl /vinyls is used for non-specific numbers. e.g "I bought a bunch of vinyl/vinyls at the flea market on Sunday." or "I'll bring some vinyl/vinyls along for the party."

    Now, more importantly, when retiring for the evening from a swinging hipster soiree should I say to the host, "Later, my fine fellow, I hope to see you moderately soon, perhaps even tomorrow night." or "Laters, blud. Catch you darkside."

  145. Andrew (yet another one) said,

    June 19, 2012 @ 8:13 am

    AlexB (June 13, 6.46 am) linked to a high-end turntable site. LL readers will be interested to find a nice eggcorn ("cuts to the musical choice") hidden there:

  146. Hexagram said,

    June 19, 2012 @ 9:21 am

    I posted a lengthy comment on the Drowned In Sound forum ( in which I put out the case for an elided noun: a vinyl [record]. When it's a plural, the plural marker attaches to the 'adjective', giving vinyls, in the same way as floppies. Now that I think about it, floppies should sound really odd!

    If the noun [record] is elided, then the mass/count distinction isn't quite so important as where the word is in the sentence: head of the adjective phrase. Vinyl is being used in the adjective position, exactly as in floppy disk. It takes a plural when the noun is gone – unusually, because adjectives don't take them normally.

    Here's the rule of thumb:

    When you get a pluralised adjective or mass noun, that means you have an elided noun after it. Plural markers don't attach to adjectives normally, and mass nouns have no plural; therefore, the plural marker was trying to attach to something else. Vinyls is as okay as floppies, but in neither case is the word itself really pluralised! The plural marker is a hitchhiker.

    As for zero derivation plural of a count noun: as has been noted, that particular subset is tiny (cannon, sheep, aircraft, deer, fish etc) and it might even be a 'closed category'. Why would it apply to vinyl but not floppy? Neologisms tend to follow the regular rules where they exist: for instance, tweet as a verb has the past tense tweeted, not twote or twate. I don't buy that vinyl in particular has a zero derivation plural.

    (It's always odd when one forum you follow posts about the activities of another! So jarring. It's like meeting your primary school teacher at your weekly fight club)

  147. Morriss Partee said,

    June 19, 2012 @ 4:49 pm

    marie-lucie said,
    Someone above compared "vinyl" to "plastic", a good analogy. The word "plastic" is often used as a generic for "credit cards", as in "I don't carry much cash, I use plastic", or, remarking on a wallet overflowing with cards: "You've got a lot of plastic there!" But I don't think "plastic" in this sense has evolved into a countable noun: no one says "I'll use one of my plastics". If this evolution does occur, one would expect the plural to be "plastics", as with "glasses" and other words as pointed out by several commenters.

    Naturally, in financial circles, "plastics" is used in certain situations. Especially as in a blank debit card that will be custom-imprinted when a customer requests one. "Sally, place an order with our card manufacturer; we're running low on plastics."

    There is probably as much jargon in banker-speak as there is in hipster-speak.

  148. Link love: language (44) « Sentence first said,

    July 9, 2012 @ 5:41 am

    […] A new peeve: the plural of vinyl. […]

  149. Mike said,

    December 13, 2013 @ 6:40 am

    Wow, actually I didn't know that. English is not my first language. I usually used vinyls, it sounded better for me. But as I write it, the spelling correction underlines this word as incorrect :D. I'm Polish and in our language there are few different ways for LP records. One of them is "winyl" ("w" pronounced as "v"). The plural is "winyle". That's why "vinyls" sounds better for me, more like in polish. We usually have issues with foreign words adapted to polish language. They used to be indeclinable. "Radio" is a good example. But language is a living structure, so it changed some time ago.

  150. Dar said,

    March 18, 2014 @ 11:01 pm

    I don't really see the problem.

    If we're talking about the chemical material, then "vinyl" is the proper plural.

    However if "vinyl" is used as shorthand for "vinyl record" then "vinyls" seems the proper plural to use.

    But then I usually use "phonograph" or "phonograph record", so what do I know.

  151. matt said,

    June 24, 2014 @ 1:01 am

    the plural is "records".

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