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prolixitysquared
Posted: Friday, July 17, 2009 10:43:02 PM
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Joined: 3/16/2009
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This is a story I thought some people here might appreciate well.

My sister told me a few days ago that she and some co-workers were talking about how certain words suddenly become accepted and added to the dictionary after not being considered words in the past. Their example was 'fish' as a plural becoming 'fishes.' I am pretty sure that used to be incorrect, and the plural was just 'fish' while the singular form was 'fish,' but as people continuously added an 'es' onto the plural version, that made it eventually worthy of some dictionaries on some level.

One of the co-workers jokingly mentioned Merriam Webster as being 'the one' who made such decisions-- which non-words can become actual words, in the end. A second co-worker said something like, "Oh, that Merriam Webster, who does she think she is ! Deciding what can be actual words in the world !"

The co-worker seemed very annoyed at Ms. Webster.

Ha ! Maybe that's a little too geeky, but I still found it amusing !
grammargeek
Posted: Friday, July 17, 2009 11:05:41 PM
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prolixitysquared wrote:
This is a story I thought some people here might appreciate well.

My sister told me a few days ago that she and some co-workers were talking about how certain words suddenly become accepted and added to the dictionary after not being considered words in the past. Their example was 'fish' as a plural becoming 'fishes.' I am pretty sure that used to be incorrect, and the plural was just 'fish' while the singular form was 'fish,' but as people continuously added an 'es' onto the plural version, that made it eventually worthy of some dictionaries on some level.

One of the co-workers jokingly mentioned Merriam Webster as being 'the one' who made such decisions-- which non-words can become actual words, in the end. A second co-worker said something like, "Oh, that Merriam Webster, who does she think she is ! Deciding what can be actual words in the world !"

The co-worker seemed very annoyed at Ms. Webster.

Ha ! Maybe that's a little too geeky, but I still found it amusing !



Well I find the story interesting, primarily because I still thought the plural of fish was fish! I didn't know anything had changed.
arthbard
Posted: Friday, July 17, 2009 11:15:44 PM
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Location: South Carolina
Well, Noah Webster is generally credited with a lot of the differences between American and British English. Apparently, he was pretty intent on creating an American language that would be distinct from the language of our former British overlords and have (at least theoretically) a more rational spelling system. Webster was a he, though, as were George and Charles Merriam, who bought the publishing rights after Webster's death.
Romany
Posted: Saturday, July 18, 2009 3:15:36 AM
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Location: Brighton, England, United Kingdom
Well I thought the OPs anecdote was amusing - even if people didn't seem exactly to be rolling in the aisles!

However, never having heard anyone over about the age of 4 - even second-language users - using fishes as a plural form I, like GG, was also surprised to read of its inclusion - even in Merriam Webster (long may she prosper). So I was absolutely gobsmacked to find it cited in the august Oxford! Didn't even have an "Accepted Usage" next to it, just blandly appeared next to fish as an alternative plural form. This forum is sooo full of surprises!
Christine
Posted: Saturday, July 18, 2009 7:57:09 AM
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This site has:

fish (fsh)
n. pl. fish or fish·es

Luftmarque
Posted: Saturday, July 18, 2009 9:36:02 AM

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Ye Gods and little fishes.
johnw
Posted: Saturday, July 18, 2009 9:51:40 AM
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I'm all for this improvement. Likewise: gooses, deers, mouses (that last'll be tuf to institute) ... etc. ANY use like this which keeps a clear meaning, but creates more consistency in English is more than welcome.
Mugly Wumple
Posted: Saturday, July 18, 2009 12:42:51 PM
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I'm shooting from the hip here and splitting some hairs but I recall a distinction between fish(pl) and fishes. It was fish if of the same species, as in a school. It was fishes if you were referring to multiple species.
mw
early_apex
Posted: Saturday, July 18, 2009 12:47:09 PM
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Mugly Wumple wrote:
I'm shooting from the hip here and splitting some hairs but I recall a distinction between fish(pl) and fishes. It was fish if of the same species, as in a school. It was fishes if you were referring to multiple species.
mw


That is how I thought the two different words were used.
xsmith
Posted: Saturday, July 18, 2009 12:50:52 PM
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According to Webster's New World College Dictionary, 4th Edition,
the plural of fish is fish. When referring to different species of fish, fishes is used.

According to American Heritage College Dictionary, 3rd Edition,
the plural of fish is fish or fishes.

The editors of the dictionary after researching usage, determine these matters.
teacherwoman
Posted: Saturday, July 18, 2009 1:15:41 PM
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Joined: 6/19/2009
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Actually one of my students who got marked wrong for writing "fishes" came up to me with the dictionary entry (which I never bothered to check before because I was so sure of my fish):

fish (pl. fish or fishes)
HELP Fish is the usual plural form. The older form, fishes, can be used to refer to different kinds of fish.

Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary

I was intrigued by the information that fishes is the older form - I wonder how the plural -es got lost.


(By the way, the student's sentence was wrong nevertheless - she hadn't bothered to read the "HELP" section; so we both ended up knowing more than we did before - talking about successful teachingWhistle )
prolixitysquared
Posted: Saturday, July 18, 2009 11:06:08 PM
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I should have clarified that the dictionaries I am familiar with either accepted 'fishes' as a plural or considered it a slang-type of version of the plural form.

Then again, I did not know about the scientific distinction mentioned by other users. Thank you for the elaboration !
prolixitysquared
Posted: Saturday, July 18, 2009 11:06:59 PM
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Location: pennsylvania.
Mugly Wumple wrote:
I'm shooting from the hip here and splitting some hairs but I recall a distinction between fish(pl) and fishes. It was fish if of the same species, as in a school. It was fishes if you were referring to multiple species.
mw


Your initials are ironic ! I like that.
prolixitysquared
Posted: Saturday, July 18, 2009 11:08:54 PM
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Location: pennsylvania.
arthbard wrote:
Well, Noah Webster is generally credited with a lot of the differences between American and British English. Apparently, he was pretty intent on creating an American language that would be distinct from the language of our former British overlords and have (at least theoretically) a more rational spelling system. Webster was a he, though, as were George and Charles Merriam, who bought the publishing rights after Webster's death.


I did know that Mr. Webster (& the Mr. Merriam men) was (/were) in fact a mister, but the co-worker (of my sister) mentioned in my original post in fact did not. I hate to take enjoyment in the ignorance of someone else, but the instance was amusing nonetheless. I don't know if anyone corrected the guy.

Pun me, I suppose, for that error before my edit.
TB
Posted: Saturday, July 18, 2009 11:32:43 PM
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When in the past, if I went fishing and caught more than one of a certain kind of fish I caught:

2 trout, not 2 trouts
2 bass, not 2 basses
2 red fish, not 2 red-fishes
2 snapper, not 2 snappers and so on.

Hasn't it always been the "all the fish in the sea"?

I'm sticking with "fish" as the plural of "fish" and BTW, all fishermen are liars. Liar
prolixitysquared
Posted: Sunday, July 19, 2009 5:49:02 PM
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Joined: 3/16/2009
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Location: pennsylvania.
TB wrote:
When in the past, if I went fishing and caught more than one of a certain kind of fish I caught:

2 trout, not 2 trouts
2 bass, not 2 basses
2 red fish, not 2 red-fishes
2 snapper, not 2 snappers and so on.

Hasn't it always been the "all the fish in the sea"?

I'm sticking with "fish" as the plural of "fish" and BTW, all fishermen are liars. Liar


What do fishermen (fisher people, perhaps !) lie about ?

My fish died a day or two ago. He was a runt and lived when so many others died. He was about three or four years old. Sad day in my house !
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