Wednesday, January 30, 2008

What counts

Recently, I discovered that there are a lot of English speakers who think that equipment can be countable. This seems to be especially common in India, so you might dismiss it as a dialectal thing, except that various Government of Canada websites use equipments quite prominently, as do Concordia University and a host of other reputable users of standard English.

This came as something of a shock for me as it would never occur to me to use it that way. Even the Cambridge Grammar of the English Language seems to have overlooked this. On page 326 it asserts that "equipment, for example, has no plural counterpart." The OED, on the other hand is more savvy: "Used in the pl. to indicate the articles severally, in the sing. collectively."

So, what's next: shrubberies? furnitures? Apparently so! Surely crockery is safe since we have crocks for the individuals (not to mention the fact that it's hardly a common word.)

When it comes to being uncountable, it really is hard to decide what counts.

1 comment:

Lisa said...

Hmmm. True, true. Here in the German speaking world, many like to turn information also into a plural. Bothersome to always hear (or read) "informations". Matches "equipments" perfectly.