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49469Re: [Czechlist] ISSUE: Noun modifiers revisited (was Re: "mains")

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  • James Kirchner
    Jul 6, 2012
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      This is an interesting article, full of insight.

      The (British) intro linguistics textbook I used to teach from held that forming compounds with the first noun in the plural was generally impossible, although your list proved that theory faulty.

      I insist that many modern-day constructions of that type are also derived from the genitive. For example, "ladies room" should be "ladies' room", but Americans are increasingly dropping the apostrophe, due to sloppy education. The clear evidence that it's a genitive construction, at least in the US, is that so many places have lavatories and departments marked "ladies" and "mens". Obviously, nobody thinks the plural of "man" is "mens", so it has to be genitive with the apostrophe left out.

      Some of the American examples the author mentions are odd to me. For example, "sports bra" yes, "sports car" yes, but "sport coat". I don't know why the difference. I guess because a sport coat isn't to be worn when playing sports. But why do we drive a "sports car" but a "sport vehicle"? It's mysterious.

      In the US, we have a "drug czar" going after "drug dealers". The fact that the British can distinguish between "drugs czar" and "drug czar" indicates to me that they must pronounce "czar" differently than we do.


      On Jul 6, 2012, at 4:53 AM, Melvyn wrote:

      > Everything you ever wanted to know about plural noun modifiers (also known as adjectival nouns, noun adjuncts and attributive nouns):
      > http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/mind-your-language/2012/jul/05/mind-your-language-nouns
      > BR
      > M.
      > --- In Czechlist@yahoogroups.com, "melvyn.geo" <zehrovak@...> wrote:
      >> This issue cropped up a few months back and I seem to recall Jirka B. pointed out that plural noun modifiers are nothing particularly anomalous (words to that effect).
      >> I quote from Practical English Usage by Michael Swan (International Student's Edition) p. 532: Singular and plural noun modifiers.
      >> Some nouns have the plural -s even when they modify other nouns. These include nouns which have no singular form (like clothes), nouns which are not used in the singular with the same meaning (like customs) and some nouns which are more often used in the plural than in the singular (like savings). In some cases (e.g. sport(s), drug(s)), usage is divided, and both singular and plural forms are found. In general, the use of plural modifiers is becoming more common in British English; American English often has singular forms where British has plurals. Some examples:
      >> a clothes shop
      >> a savings account
      >> a glasses case
      >> the accounts department
      >> a customs officer
      >> the sales department
      >> arms control
      >> an antique(s) dealer
      >> the outpatients department
      >> a greetings card (US greeting card)
      >> the arrivals hall (US arrival hall)
      >> a drinks cabinet (US drink cabinet)
      >> a goods train (BrEng)
      >> a sports car
      >> sport(s) shoes
      >> Do any of these forms sound very odd to you?
      >> HTH
      >> M.
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