Monday 5 September 2022

Grandpa Greg's Advanced Grammar: PLURALIA TANTUM

Ceremonial events
Eruptions (rashes)
Cooking ingredients
High hopes
Careers (3 verses, a 'brief saga')

Authors' Note: Plurale tantum, meaning plural only, is a Latin-derived term (with plural form pluralia tantum), for a noun that has no, or only a minimally used singular form, e.g. alms, auspices, and dregs. There are over one hundred of these in English. In other languages, such forms are commonly used to refer to ceremonial time-points on life's journey, but in English we have only the relatively archaic terms banns, nuptials, obsequies and remains, also last rites and final respects. Bryce's attempt to help his audience is incorrect, as these peculiarly plural nouns generally are paired with a plural verb-form.

nuptials by the lake

Authors' Note: Eruption is a venerable medical term for a skin rash, in use since an earlier era when practitioners paid careful attention to characteristic skin lesions and various symptoms, but knew little of disease causality such as viral infection and allergy. Traditional names for medical symptoms and diseases in general are often based on lay vernacular terms dating from a much earlier time. Shingles is also known as herpes zoster, the second term referring to the belt-like distribution of lesions.

Authors' Note: 

clunky: slang for 'awkward'

Our disappointed grammar-buff is right: a lot of grammar is not derived from logical principles. All languages face the problem of characterizing masses and groups of undistinguished small objects as singular or plural. This dilemma seems to reach its peak with items that are the basis of cooking. Despite an attempt to find rules, there is no dependency on particle size.

Nouns used only, or principally in the plural form are known as pluralia tantum; those used excusively in the singular form are known as singularia tantum. This usage varies from one language to another. We find some foreign uses 'incomprehensible', as in the general Hebrew plural form mayim for 'water', despite the fact that, on occasion, "Still waters run deep."


Authors' Note: The above verse provides several further examples of the grammatical phenomenon pluralia tantumAn idiom associated with providing condolences for the family and friends of a single deceased person is to 'pay one's final respects'.

Authors' Note:   

Urals: The Ural Mountains, a discrete range running north and south, separates old Russian from more sparsely populated Siberia, and is considered as the boundary between the continents of Europe and Asia.

 The above verses provide further examples of the grammatical phenomenon pluralia tantum


(Note that the three verses of this "brief saga" can be found in more readily legible format on the blog "Daily Illustrated Nonsense"; click HERE.) 


To resume daily titillations on our related blog 'Daily Illustrated Nonsense', click HERE. Once you arrive, you can select your time frame of interest from the calendar-based listings in the righthand margin, and check the daily offerings for any month in the years 2020 to the present. (As of September 2023, there are over 1200 unique entries available on the Daily blog, and most of these are also presented here on 'Edifying Nonsense' in topic-based collections.) The 'Daily' format also has the advantage of including some videos and other material that are not shown here on this topic-based blog.

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