A Collection of Word Oddities and Trivia, Page 14

Last revision: Oct. 2, 2015


PLURALS

ALMS is a word with no singular form. Other words with no singular form or a rarely used singular form are: AGENDA, ANNALS, IDES, JITTERS, BRACES, CATTLE, CLOTHES, DIBS, EAVES, GOGGLES, MARGINALIA, PANTIES, PANTS, PLIERS, REMAINS, RICHES, SHENANIGANS, SHORTS, SCISSORS, SUDS, and TROUSERS (although there is "trouser leg") [Stuart Kidd]. Strictly speaking, Ides is not plural, although it is singular or plural in construction, according to MWCD10. Agenda is not plural although its origin is the plural of the Latin agendum.

CORPS has the plural spelled the same way as the singular but pronounced differently. Other such words are CHASSIS, BOURGEOIS, RENDEZVOUS, PINCE-NEZ, FAUX PAS, GARDEBRAS, PRÉCIS [Keith C. Ivey in alt.usage.english, Stuart Kidd].

CARES, LARGES, TIMELINES and PRINCES are examples of plural words that become singular words (caress, largess, timeliness, and princess) with another added S. Some other words which become singular words with the addition of an S are: abbes, abys, adventures, bas, bos, bras, bulgines, chapes, cites, cosines, deadlines, esquires, fras, gamines, gaus, glassines, gues, hos, kavas, kos, las, los, lownes, marques, mas, millionaires, mis, moras, mos, multimillionaires, nervines, ogres, pas, pis, pos, posses, prelates, pros, sagenes, saltines, shines, sightlines, squires, tartines, tas, tyrranes, usures, zebras, camas, careles, carles, cos, discus, dos, dures, es, footles, garbles, handles, his, homines, hurtles, inkles, kermes, kindles, koumis, koumys, mes, mus, needles, poses, princes, pus, restles, rumples, rustles, tackles, tailles, treadles, tres, wattles, windles, wis, amas, amis, as, asses, bibles, bus [Stuart Kidd, Ted Clarke, Mike Turniansky, Bill Webster, Eric Lafontaine].

FOLK and FOLKS are both plurals, with no singular form [Stuart Kidd].

KINE (an archaic plural of COW) qualifies as a plural that shares no letters in common with its singular. Others are I/WE, ME/US. If one overlooks the change in case, then US can be considered a plural of I, in which case it reverses the common method pluralizing certain words by changing -us to -i [Mark D. Lew].

SERIES is a singular word ending in S, but its plural is identical. Others are SPECIES, CONGERIES, SHAMBLES, KUDOS and PREMISES [Stuart Kidd].

[In older dictionaries, KUDOS (pronounced koo-doss) was a singular word. However, widespread mispronunciation of the word has led some modern dictionaries to list KUDO as the singular form created by back-formation. Mark D. Lew points out, "The same process is underway with BICEP, as a back-formed singular of the supposed plural BICEPS. A word which completed this process long ago is PEA; originally PEASE was the singular."]

HAIR is a word that as a singular suggests more than its plural [Gary Rosenberg].

JINNI is a singular form that becomes shorter when pluralized to JINN [Stuart Kidd].

Roger Fenton writes, "Welsh has a number of words like this. Most of these are words in which the referrent is something which is difficult to distinguish visually from another object of the same class, such as tree, mouse, star. In these cases, the 'root' word is the plural, and the singular form is made by adding a singularising suffix, sometimes with a vowel ablaut in the stem, thus: COED/COEDEN (trees/tree), LLYGOD/LLYGODEN (mice/mouse), SÊR/SEREN (stars/star) MORGRUG/MORGRUGYN (ants/ant), PRYFED/PRYFEDYN (insects/insect). This class also includes child/children for some reason: PLANT/PLENTYN. We also have words where the stem is number-neutral, and both the singular and plural are formed by adding suffixes: RHODEN/RHODIAU (rod/rods), BLODYN/BLODAU (flower/flowers), and a few words with three plurals: one neutral, one which expresses disgust or dislike, and one which expresses pleasure or cuteness, the most common of these is PLENTYN/PLANT/PLANTACH/PLANTOS (child/children (neutral)/children (brats)/children (kiddies)."

OS has three distinct meanings: bone; opening; and ridge. Each of these has a different plural form: OSSA, ORA, and OSAR [Stuart Kidd].

NECROPOLIS is a singular word ending in S that becomes plural when the S is removed [Stuart Kidd].

In 2011 Toyota Motor Sales announced that in a vote organized by the company, the general public selected PRII as the preferred plural term for PRIUS. However, Nick Young, a Latin and classical studies instructor at the University of Detroit Mercy told the Detroit Free Press that the plural is actually “Priora” or “Priores.” [Charles Turner]

AXE and AXIS have plurals which are spelled identically, AXES. Other pairs of words with plurals that are spelled the same way are BASE and BASIS (BASES), ELLIPSE and ELLIPSIS (ELLIPSES), FORTE and FORTIS (FORTES), GENIE and GENIUS (GENII), HALF and HALVE (HALVES), LANCE and LANX (LANCES), SOL and SOLE (SOLES), TAX and TAXIS (TAXES), UGLI and UGLY (UGLIES). ASSES is the spelling of the plural of AS, ASS and ASSE (an African fox). LISSES is the spelling of the plural of LIS, LISS and LISSE. MESDAMES is the spelling of the plural of MADAM, MADAME and MRS. [Stuart Kidd, Ralph Beaman].

PARASHAH has six plurals: PARASHOTH, PARASHOT, PARASHIOTH, PARASHIOT, PARSHIOTH and PARSHIOT. Judith Epstein writes, "In Hebrew, there are only two plurals, depending on grammar. One transliterates to parashot/parashos/parashoth and the other as parshiot/parshios/parshioth. The difficulty lies in the letter Tav (or Sav), the final letter of the Hebrew alphabet. It is pronounces exclusively as T by Sephardic Jews (Jews from Spain, Morocco, the Middle East and Far East); as T, S, or Th by Ashkenazic Jews (Jews from northern and western Europe or northern Russia); and with yet different pronunciations by Jews from other portions of Africa, such as Beta Yisrael of Yemen. However, in Hebrew, only the letter Tav is used; it is the transliterations of Hebrew letters into the Roman alphabet which are at fault. The plurals of lira, seudah (s'udah), and mitzvah have the same issue."

XHOSA has the five plurals XHOSA, XHOSAS, AMAXHOSA, AMAXOSA and AMAKOSA.

Some words with four different plurals are LIRA [Israeli] (LIROTH, LIROT, LIRES, LIRE), NECROPOLIS (NECROPOLISES, NECROPOLES, NECROPOLEIS, NECROPOLI), RHINOCEROS (RHINOCEROSES, RHINOCEROS, RHINOCERI and RHINOCEROTES), SEUDAH (SEUDOTH, SEUDOT, SEUDOS, SEUDAHS) and SKI (SKIS, SKI, SKIES and SKIIS) [Ralph Beaman, Murray Pearce, Dmitri Borgmann].

Some words with three different plurals are OCTOPUS (OCTOPUSES, OCTOPI, OCTOPODES), DRACHMA (DRACHMAS, DRACHMAE, DRACHMI), FELLAH (FELLAHEEN, FELLAHIN, FELLAHS), MITZVAH (MITZVOTH, MITZVOT, MITZVAHS) [Rick Shepherd]. Bill Hazelton points out that OCTOPI is not a sensible word, as it is second-declension Latin nouns which change from -us to -i; octopus is not one of them. Nevertheless, dictionaries do show it as a plural of octopus.

Words with even more plurals are listed on page one.

Some other interesting plurals are: ADAI/ADAIZE, AIRE/AIRIG, ALA/ALAE, ARMFUL/ARMSFUL, ARPEGGIO/ARPEGGI, BAN/BANI, BANDIT/BANDITTI, BEAU/BEAUX, BILDUNGSROMAN/BILDUNGSROMANE, BROTHER/BRETHREN, CALPULLI/CALPULLEC, CARMEN/CARMINA, CHALLAH/CHALLOT, CHATEAU/CHATEAUX, CHERUB/CHERUBIM, CHETTY/CHETTYARS, CHILD/CHILDREN, CHIMAN/CHIMANES, CHRYSALIS/CHRYSALIDES, COCCYX/COCCYGES, COMES/COMITES, CRUS/CRURA, CYCLOPS/CYCLOPES, CYWYDD/CYWYDDAU, DERRING-DO/DERRINGS-DO, DIE/DICE, DIVA/DIVE, DUKHOBOR/DUKHOBORTSY, EAU/EAUX, EAVE/OAVES, EISTEDDFOD/EISTEDDFODAU, ENEMA/ENEMATA, ENGLYN/ENGLYNION, EPHEMERIS/EPHEMERIDES, ERF/ERVEN, ERG/AREG, EYRIR/AURAR, FALAJ/AFLAJ, FAQIH/FUQAHA, FEIS/FEISEANNA, FILI/FILID, FOOT/FEET, FORTIS/FORTES, GARIFUNA/GARINAGU, GENUS/GENERA, GNOME/GNOMAE, GOOSE/GEESE, GOOSEFOOT/GOOSEFOOTS, GOY/GOYIM, GROSZ/GROSZY, HALER/HALERU, HALF/HALVES, HEMIEPES/HEMIEPE, ITER/ITINERA, JAJMAN/JAJMANI, JUGER/JUGERA, KACHE/KA, KHARIJITE/KHAWARIJ, KIBBUTZ/KIBBUTZIM, KOLKHOZ/KOLKHOZY, KOMONDOR/KOMONDOROK, KORE/KORAI, KORUNA/KORUN, KOUROS/KOUROI, KRASIS/KRASEIS, KRONE/KRONEN [Austria], KRONA/KRONOR [Sweden], KRONA/KRONUR [Iceland], KRONE/KRONER [Denmark & Norway], KUVASZ/KUVASZOK, KWAPA/QUAPAW, LACUNAR/LACUNARIA, LANDSMAN/LANDSLEIT, LANX/LANCES, LILANGENI/EMALANGENI, LIRA/LIROTH, LOTI/MALOTI, MADAM(E)/MESDAMES, MALAYALI/MALAYALIM, MAN/MEN, MATZO/MATZOT, MEISTERGESANG/MEISTERGESÄNGE, MEO/MIAO, MGANGA/WAGANGA, MIDRASH/MIDRASHOT, MIXTECA/MIXTECO, MONGOOSE/MONGOOSES, MOSOTHO/BASOTHO, NEVER-WAS/ NEVER-WERES, OPUS/OPERA, ORDO/ORDINES, ORNIS/ORNITHES, OX/OXEN, PACTIO/PACTIONES, PAPIOPIO/PAPIO, PARIES/PARIETES, PEA/PEASE, PENNY/PENCE, PFEFFERNUSS/PFEFFERNUESSE, PHALANX/PHALANGES, PHASM/PHASMATA, PRUTAH or PRUTA/PRUTOTH or PRUTOT, PULI/PULIK, QINAH/QINOTH, QINDAR/QINDARKA, QUADRANS/QUADRANTES, RAS/RASAS, ROTL/ARTAL, RUBAI/RUBAIYAT, SAMANID/SAMANI, SASSANID/SASSANIDAE, SCHEMA/SCHEMATA, SENTE/LISENTE, SERAGLIO/SERAGLI, SERAPH/SERAPHIM, SHADCHAN/SHADCHONIM, SHARIF/ASHRAF, SHEGETZ/SHKOTZIM, SHOFAR/SHOFROTH, SHTETL/SHTETLACH, SIGNORE/SIGNORI, SKI/SKIIS, SKOPETS/SKOPTSY, SLUBBI/SLEYB, STILL LIFE/STILL LIFES, SUMU/SUMO, TABLEAU/TABLEAUX, TALIB/TALIBAN, TALISMAN/TALISMANS, TALITH/TALALITHIM, TALMOUSE/TALMOUSES, THIS/THISSES, TORTE/TORTEN, ULCUS/ULCERA, USHABTI/USHABTIU, VAS/VADES, VAS/VASA, VILA/VILY, VIS/VIRES, VOLKSDEUTSCHER/VOLKSDEUTSCHE, VOX/VOCES, WOMAN/WOMEN, WUNDERKIND/WUNDERKINDER, XHOSA/AMAXHOSA, YAD/YADAYIM [Stuart Kidd, Philip Bennett, Jonathan Hoefler, Dan Tilque, Paul Giaccone, Ed Robbeloth, Rick Shepherd, Charles Turner, Ralph Beaman, Lorie Church, Keegan Greenier, Pierre Abbat].


SCRABBLE WORDS

In Scrabble, the highest scores available for playing a single word without contrived or highly unlikely circumstances involve an 8-letter word played across two triple-word-score squares, with a high-scoring tile on the double-letter-score square in between, and using a single letter previously played on a non-premium square. The scores include the 50-point bonus (nicknamed a "bingo") for playing all 7 tiles. [Description by Mark Brader.] Scrabble in North America recognizes five words worth 392 points in this situation: OXAZEPAM, BEZIQUES, CAZIQUES, MEZQUITS, and MEZQUITE [Craig Rowland]. However, the Official Scrabble Words, based on Chambers, includes QUIZZIFY for 419 (not 509 since only one Z is available and a blank must be used for the other). Other high-scoring words include WHIZBANG, QUETZALS, and HIGHJACK (each 374); QUIXOTIC (356); and MUSQUASH (338) [Bruce D. Wilner].

The highest known theoretically possible score for a single play under American tournament Scrabble rules (OSPD+MWCD) is 1,778 points for joining 8 already-played tiles to form the word OXYPHENBUTAZONE across three triple-word-score squares, while simultaneously extending 7 specific already-played words to form new words. In the Scrabble FAQ this construction is credited to Dan Stock. [John Chew]

The highest-scoring opening plays in Scrabble are MUZJIKS (128) in OSPD, and QUARTZY or SQUEEZY (each 126) in OSW. Other words yielding high scores as an opening play are POPQUIZ (128) and ZYXOMMA (130, but not in OSPD).

According to James Bartlett, the highest score obtainable by playing a seven-letter word is 164 for playing QUARTZY across a triple-word-score square with the Z on a double-letter-score square. It will also score 162 points if played across two double-word squares. BEZIQUE and CAZIQUE are next with a possible 161 points. However, these scores include the 50-point "bingo" bonus, which would would only be possible in these situations if a second word was made on the same play, scoring additional points.

QI (a life force in Chinese medicine) appears in Chambers. Barry Harridge says, "Its introduction threw the Scrabble world into a tailspin, with some players arguing that the Q should no longer be worth 10 points." Bruce D. Wilner says, "Not only do they allow QI in the U.K., they also allow ZO (a type of hornless cattle). This makes playing U. K. Scrabble much less of a strategic challenge than U. S. Scrabble, which features a host of "blocking tiles," i.e., tiles that cannot form 2-letter words and effectively block off opportunities for your opponent.

ETAERIO (an aggregate or cluster fruit such as the raspberry) is the most likely seven letter word to appear on a Scrabble rack [Stuart Kidd].

John Chew reports the plural ETHYLENEDIAMINETETRAACETATES is the longest word in his electronic Scrabble lexicon. (However, he did not explain where on the Scrabble board the word fits!)

The Q without U words accepted in the U. S. Scrabble list are: QAT, QAID, QOPH, FAQIR, QANAT, TRANQ, QINDAR, QINTAR, QWERTY, SHEQEL, QINDARKA, and SHEQALIM (alternate plural of SHEQEL). The combined US/UK list (SOWPODS) adds (from Chambers Dictionary), with their plurals: BUQSHA, BURQA, INQILAB, MBAQANGA, MUQADDAM, QABALAH, QADI, QAIMAQAM, QALAMDAN, QASIDA, QI, QIBLA, QIGONG, QINGHAOSU, QIS, QIVIUT, QWERTIES, QWERTYS, SUQ, TALAQ, TRANQ, TSADDIQIM, TSADDIQ, TZADDIQIM, TZADDIQ, UMIAQ, WAQF, and YAQONA [Stuart Kidd].

A list of two-letter words acceptable in Words With Friends is here.

[Some words containing Q and U but not the QU sequence are QIVIUT, UMIAQ, and BUQSHA.]


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