or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Red Whine

Here's a Slate.com article on wine tasting, and here's a couple of sentences from it:

Blind tastings are wonderfully democratic, but there is a tendency to overlook the fact that wines and palates are fickle and to read more into the results than is justified. This was certainly true of history's most famous blind tasting, the 1976 Judgment of Paris, when a panel of French experts rated several unheralded American wines superior to a handful of top Bordeauxs and white Burgundies.

Generally speaking, when we borrow a word from another language, we don't borrow that language's plural form, but instead pluralize it in the manner of the English language; we just slap an ess on the end and we're done with it. Do we care that the German plural of "hausfrau" is actually "hausfrauen"? No, of course not: when we want to pluralize the naturalized English word, we just say "hausfraus".


There are some standardized plurals that we did borrow from other languages, and one of them is from French. It's becoming more and more common to pluralize borrowings from French which end in "-eau" in the standard English manner; the usual plural of "bureau" is "bureaus", and likewise "beau" and "beaus". But there's still a residue of the French "-eaux" plural ending, including "eaux" itself; you might see "eau de toilette" pluralized into "eaux de toilette" rather than the now-usual "eau de toilettes", and you might see "beaux" or "bureaux" (both of which pass the spellchecker test and which, though they have a certain nineteenth-century flavour to them, are still correct). French words in English that already end in "-eaux" are pluralized in the same way, with no visible change from singular to plural (in the same way that English "fish" is both singular and plural). They don't need an ess tacked onto the end.

All this is a roundabout way of saying that "Bordeauxs" is wrong.


Post a Comment

<< Home