Tag Archives: Fluff

Singular Or Plural

Words, dude.

Words fascinate me. I love to learn new words, to revel in the onomatopoeia of certain words like tintinnabulation or bark. I love to learn the history of words as well, to see where we’ve come and possibly guess where we’re going.

I love words.

All of which goes to say that I’ll be talking about words today. More specifically, the use of is and are. Don’t worry, though, it’s not going to be boring. Promise.

Here’s my question: When did the United States become a singular noun, instead of a plural one? I mean, think about it. There are 50 states comprising the United States. Notice the s there on the end of State? That’s to indicate that there are more than one state involved in the whole enterprise.

Which should mean that, in discussing the aggregate, we should be saying “The United States are going to welcome people from other nations.” Instead, what we hear these days is, in fact, singular: “The United States is going to welcome people from other nations.”

The even more intriguing thing is that, in the beginning? When the nation first pulled itself out of the chaos surrounding English occupation? We referred to the country in the plural: The United States are. . .

In an interesting bit of internet detective-izing, a redditor poster LeftHandedMasterRace, aka Kyle, decided to investigate a rather old quote that purported to answer the questin of the pluralized singularity. The quote is this: “There was a time a few years ago when the United States was spoken of in the plural number,”reads an article published April 24th, 1887, in The Washington Post. “Men said ‘the United States are’ — ‘the United States have’ — ‘the United States were.’ But the war changed all that.”

Was this really the case? LeftHandedMasterRace decided to find out. So he went digging using some actual Google tools actually designed for this sort of thing and found, oddly, that the quote wasn’t really an exaggeration. It wasn’t a piece of fluff designed to make something sound even better than it was.w680

He set up a program to check the use of “the United States are” and “the United States is” between 1760 and 2008. What he found was almost perfect backing for the Washington Post quote.

Although the plural usage continued well into the 20th century, it was on a quick trend downward toward zero. The reforging of the union following the Civil War really did seem to put the United States into the singular feeling.

We became a nation, holding states, rather than many states that stood together to form a nation. It’s a subtle difference, but one that says a lot about how we look at ourselves and our country.

A hat tip to Robert T. Gonzalez at io9.com for bringing this up.

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Fluffy Doggies

by Richard

Sorry for the rant yesterday, dudes. I promise not to bring up politics much here. It’s just sometimes I’ve got to speak out when the stupid hurts to much. The stupid!! It burns!!

Anyway, here’s some cute pictures of Buzz, the dog that walks like a beaver, to make up for it.

Here he is in psycho-killer mode.

This is Buzz resting after having disposed of the evidence. Well, as you can see from the bone on the left of the picture, most of the evidence.

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Big Dude On Campus, For Certain Values of Campus. And, Truthfully, Big.

by Richard

Nothing to do with college or high school or anything like that. I just liked the headline. Well, it made me laugh. Anyway, I wanted to talk about discovering previously hidden talents. Here’s the deal: Over the last week or so, I actually made several household repairs more complicated than switching out light bulbs. Hey, it’s a big deal for me.

Hidden talent #1: Scruffling around in rocks and fluff. Last year, I and my wife, known to me as She Who Must Have New Decoration, completely tore out and redid our bathroom. The reason I tell you this (other than to brag that we’re still together after that ordeal) is because the contractor didn’t do a totally exceptional job. When it was colder than a former Governor of Alaska’s . . . um. . . shoulder here in Charlotte, I noticed that one of the heating and air conditioning registers was doing a lot more freezing than it was heating. And, of course, that meant that it was my wet feet that got turned into blocks of ice while I stood at the mirror and put on my face. (hey, it’s a long process)

All of which meant that I had to go down under the house into the crawl space. Some genius decided it would be a good idea to cover the bottom of the crawl space with smallish rocks. With very sharp edges. Not fun to crawl on your hands and knees over. Especially when the ceiling/floor above your back keeps getting closer and closer. That’s when the sneezing started.

I shone the flashlight around and saw there was what looked like dryer lint all over the place down there. Well, as it turns out, that’s exactly what was down there. Seems our contractor had, while working on the bathroom, dislodged the exhaust pipe leading from the dryer to the outside. Which led the dryer lint to spew into the crawl space. Now that was fun. I stopped by to fix that with copious amounts of duct tape and then moved onto the grand finalé.

Crawling all the way to the end of the space, I found the disconnected duct and got to work. It was cool, really. I was able to use duct tape on an actual duct. That’s the sort of thing that seriously tickled me. What? I’m easily amused. Move on. I didn’t use just duct tape, though. See, I really didn’t want to have to come under there again. With that in mind, I wrapped wire around the connection and tightened it to the point of cutting off the circulation, if a metal pipe could be said to have any. Then I put on more duct tape to make sure the wire wouldn’t fall off.

When I crawled out of the freezing crawl space I looked like the Abominable Lintman, but it was worth it. The register was blowing even more hot air than I do. Well worth the effort that went into the solution.

That was when I got cocky. And paid the price. . .

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