Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The plural of Prius, continued

Thinking about Prii prompted me to look at what Garner’s Modern American Usage has to say about the plural forms of borrowed words. From a longer discussion:

Many writers who try to be sophisticated in their use of language make mistakes such as *ignorami and *octopi — unaware that neither is a Latin noun that, when inflected as a plural, becomes -i. The proper plural of the Greek word octopus is octopodes; the proper English plural is octopuses.

Those who affect this sort of sophistication may face embarrassing stumbles — e.g., “A ‘big city’ paper with an editor as eminently qualified as I’m sure you are should know that the plural of campus is *campi (not campuses). Just like the plural of virus is *viri (not viruses), and the plural of stadium is *stadia (not stadiums).” Letter to the Editor, Dallas Morning News, 22 Sept. 2002, at J3 (name withheld for obvious reasons).
Garner’s guideline: “if in doubt, use the native-English plural ending in -s.”

One complication with the Toyota Prius: unlike, say, campus, prius is a Latin adjective and adverb, not a noun. And Prius is not a Latin word; it’s the name of a car. Priuses makes better sense to the eye and ear, at least to my eye and ear. And to my other eye and ear.

My least-favorite sophisticated plural might be fora for forums. Yours?

[The Garner asterisk: “Invariably inferior words and phrases are marked with an asterisk.”]

comments: 4

Elaine said...

The main objection I have to the whole thing: complete lack of humor. Do these stiffer-than-thou types never clown around with 'octopi' or 'meese' or the plural of Kleenex (Kleenices.) BTW, there's no red line under 'octopi.'

Good luck, Toyota, trying to make people say, 'Prii.'

Michael Leddy said...

I think such humor would be beneath them.

Thanks for Kleenices — I’d never heard it and will now have to use it.

Elaine said...

I apologize for the . instead of ? above. I should proofread. (How To Be A Better Writer!)

Michael Leddy said...

I didn’t notice, but now I do. :)