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My Grammarchenemy: Collective Proper Noun Treated as Plural

.Tripwire..Tripwire. FirmanRegistered User regular
edited May 2008 in Help / Advice Forum
Read the bolded parts for the quickie-in-the-bathroom version.



I want to say this is most common in games journalism/discussion, but honestly I don't read much else, so it's possible it's more widespread than I am aware. Here's what it is: People taking a proper noun that describes a collective (like the name of a company) and conjugating its action as if it was a plural noun instead of a singular entity.

So headlines like:
"Nintendo decide to release another Mario game"
"Capcom reap benefit of a multi-platform release"

And just recently in G&T a topic was made bearing the title, "IGN give Haze a 4.5..."

I never really noticed this until a year or so ago, and I'm either increasingly aware of it or it is being performed with greater frequency. Is there anyone out there super deeply familiar with even the most obscure of grammar rules who can assure me whether this is practice is correct or not?

I've asked others before and they share my opinion that it is wrong, or at least seems wrong because it sounds so bad, but then why would so many people seem to adopt its use unless there was a compelling argument of its validity? Then again my encounters with it have chiefly been in video game news outlets and fora, which are hardly reliable bastions of proper grammar.

Anyways of all awkward sounding grammar flubs this one offends me the worst, so it is truly my grammarchenemy and I would like to see it defeated if any of you can help. I apologize if this should be an easy topic to look up but I'm not very grammar-wise so I don't know what terminology to use in the research of it.

.Tripwire. on
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Posts

  • DocDoc Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited May 2008
    We am sure about this conjugation: it are the correct one.

  • MikeManMikeMan Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    This is a common British/American stylistic difference, but to be honest I see it in a lot of articles and titles everywhere.

    It's relatively normal. There's probably a book somewhere that commands against it or for it, but it's really up to the person methinks.

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  • SmasherSmasher Starting to get dizzy Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    I believe it's one of those subtle differences between British and American English. In American English a group is usually singular unless you're referring to the members of that group rather than the group itself. In British English which one you use seems to be more a matter of preference than a rule.

    http://www.learnenglish.org.uk/grammar/archive/collective_nouns.html

  • GotrGotr Ms. St Louis, MORegistered User regular
    edited May 2008
    Well seeing as how, when you go back to other languages, collectives are conjugated in the singular, it seems like it should be done that way.

    I'm most proficient in Latin, so I'll use that for example:

    "Manus impetum contra viros Romanos facit.", The band of men is making an attack against the men of Rome.

    "Senatus legem novum constitit", The Senate is setting up a new law.

    "Exercitus bellum amat", The army loves war.

    Those verbs are both 3rd person singular, and the noun is singular. That makes sense, since Senatus is only talking about one Senate, much like Nintendo is only talking about one Nintendo.

    So it seems to me like that should carry over into English, where the conjugation system is so similar. I remember it working that way in French too, but I wasn't very good with it and I can't remember how to spell a damn word of French.

    But it just seems wrong as all hell to do a singular noun with a plural verb, because the verb refers back to the noun, not to all of the people implied by the noun.

    Spoiler:
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  • an_altan_alt Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    I'm also Canadian and therefore allowed to mix and match English and American spelling and grammar. Having said that, I'm with Gotr 100% and would never mix a singular noun with a plural verb. While it may be acceptable in some opinions, I suspect most would consider it to be incorrect.

    When the plural noun can be used to imply a group of individuals, the plural verb is fine, but the headlines in the OP don't appear to fall into that category.

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  • TobyToby Registered User
    edited May 2008
    I'm afraid you're not going to find a compelling argument for either side. It's not grammatical for you, it is grammatical for other people. There's no Grammar King that can decide which party is right.

    Speakers of other languages might universally find it ungrammatical in their languages, but we're only talking about English; only English speakers matter.

  • .Tripwire..Tripwire. Firman Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    Thank you dawgs/dawgettes for the insight!

    I obviously agree with Gotr, even discounting the rules of other languages, it just seems to make logical sense that a collective noun be considered singular since, well, it's a noun collecting multiple things into one.

    Google Image Search suggests that King Edward VI is qualified to serve as our Grammar King:

    edward.jpeg


    I have e-mailed him my question and look forward to his decree.


    Edit: FUCK. The king is dead, it would seem. Language is in a state of anarchy.

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  • LoveIsUnityLoveIsUnity Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    Everyone here who is arguing for either side is correct. Pat yourselves on the back, you're all right. I'm sure that, if Fowler, a prescriptive grammarian, were (notice the subjunctive mood) here, he would decry everyone who is conjugating singular nouns as plural nouns. However, a descriptive grammarian (any modern linguist) will tell you that the plural conjugation is likely becoming more and more accepted and is not something to freak out about.

    Incidentally, the subjunctive mood is also on its way out according to a lot of folks. Crazy world huh?

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  • MurphysParadoxMurphysParadox Registered User
    edited May 2008
    My consideration here goes as follows:

    I decide
    You decide
    They decide

    He/She/It decides
    John decides
    Nintendo decides

    In english (at least american), the fact remains that Nintendo is a proper noun representing a single group. The Nintendo Company decides... The only way out of this is assuming Nintendo represents 'they' or 'you all'. However, since you aren't saying The Nintendo Game Designers decide or IGN's editors decide, you aren't referring to the group as 'they' or 'you all' (and colloquially, one is not to assume this).

    Now, ultimately, grammar is a brittle beast. It resists change to a point and then just absorbs the change as an acceptable alternative if the practice is not squashed with relative speed. Due to that, I'd say LoveIsUnity's point about the modern linguist is perfectly correct. Hell, in 5-10 years, 4, r, c, u and such will all be acceptable alternative spellings for the common words.

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  • bowenbowen Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    My consideration here goes as follows:

    I decide
    You decide
    They decide

    He/She/It decides
    John decides
    Nintendo decides


    In english (at least american), the fact remains that Nintendo is a proper noun representing a single group. The Nintendo Company decides... The only way out of this is assuming Nintendo represents 'they' or 'you all'. However, since you aren't saying The Nintendo Game Designers decide or IGN's editors decide, you aren't referring to the group as 'they' or 'you all' (and colloquially, one is not to assume this).

    Now, ultimately, grammar is a brittle beast. It resists change to a point and then just absorbs the change as an acceptable alternative if the practice is not squashed with relative speed. Due to that, I'd say LoveIsUnity's point about the modern linguist is perfectly correct. Hell, in 5-10 years, 4, r, c, u and such will all be acceptable alternative spellings for the common words.

    This.

  • DortmunderDortmunder Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    Also, for what it's worth, a corporation is considered a single entity which has an individual (legal) personality that is distinct from those who make up the corporation.

    If you are referring to the corporation (Nintendo, IGN, etc) by its proper name, you are referring to a single entity and should use the singular conjugation of the verb.

    As mentioned above, if you are referring to "The IGN editors" or "The Nintendo game designers", you would use the plural.

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  • bowenbowen Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    Dortmunder wrote: »
    Also, for what it's worth, a corporation is considered a single entity which has an individual (legal) personality that is distinct from those who make up the corporation.

    If you are referring to the corporation (Nintendo, IGN, etc) by its proper name, you are referring to a single entity and should use the singular conjugation of the verb.

    As mentioned above, if you are referring to "The IGN editors" or "The Nintendo game designers", you would use the plural.

    To me saying, "Nintendo decide to release Wii," sounds strange. It doesn't have flow and is somewhat awkward to say. Granted, it's a singular noun, but you are also referring to something that is an inclusion of many things. I've always regarded it treated as a plural of the singular in which the plural is the same word (fish, moose, etc).

    It just seems too awkward to read or pronounce it that way. Probably just a disparaging difference between Americanized English and British English. I mean, we can still understand each other. It probably should be written towards its targeted audience though.

  • CheerfulBearCheerfulBear Registered User
    edited May 2008
    Everyone here who is arguing for either side is correct. Pat yourselves on the back, you're all right. I'm sure that, if Fowler, a prescriptive grammarian, were (notice the subjunctive mood) here, he would decry everyone who is conjugating singular nouns as plural nouns. However, a descriptive grammarian (any modern linguist) will tell you that the plural conjugation is likely becoming more and more accepted and is not something to freak out about.

    Incidentally, the subjunctive mood is also on its way out according to a lot of folks. Crazy world huh?

    How do you conjugate nouns again?

  • DjeetDjeet Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    Easy enough, once you've properly verbed them.

  • CheerfulBearCheerfulBear Registered User
    edited May 2008
    Ah, but since it undergoes a functional shift it is, syntactically, no longer a considered a noun.

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