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To singularize, or pluralize, that is the question

Monday, 2 May, 2016

The Rainy Day copy of the Concise Oxford English Dictionary, the twelfth edition, dates from 2011 and it’s beginning to show its age. Take the word “singularity,” which all nerds know is the approaching era when “our intelligence will become increasingly nonbiological and trillions of times more powerful than it is today.” According to our Concise Oxford English Dictionary, however, the definition goes like this:

singularity n (pl singularities) 1 the state, fact, or quality of being singular. 2 Physics & Mathematics a point at which a function takes an infinite value, especially a point of infinite density at the centre of a black hole.

The entry on “singularity” is followed by the definition of “singularize” or “singularise”, which is a verb, “1 make distinct or conspicuous. 2 give a singular form to (a word).” Its counterpart, “pluralize/pluralise”, is defined as “1 make something more numerous. 2 give a plural form to a word.” And this brings us to GitHub, the largest host of source code in the world, with 12 million users and some 31 million repositories, where Blake Embrey has added a module titled “pluralize” that uses “a pre-defined list of rules, applied in order, to singularize or pluralize a given word. There are many cases where this is useful, such as any automation based on user input,” he says.

Who, apart from lexicographers and coders, care about such wordy matters? Apple does, and tomorrow we’ll find out why Apple is at war with the singular and the plural of its product(s). Example: “It would be proper to say ‘I have 3 Macintosh.'”

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