My Problem with Some Plurals … And Other Musings

What is the plural of a handful? That question came up while I was writing the previous post (A Primer on How to Get Published in Magazines). I knew that mother-in-law becomes mothers-in-law and attorney general becomes attorneys general in the plural, but I wasn’t sure about handful. Handsful or handfuls?

Webster’s New World Dictionary specified handfuls and so did the Chicago Manual of Style, so I bowed to their authority and used that in the post. But I still think handfuls looks strange when written out. Some other plurals do, too. Look at tomato and mosquito and tell me that tomatoes and mosquitoes don’t look strange when written out.

It’s not just plurals plaguing me these days. I’m wondering, is anybody as bothered as I am about overuse of the word “currently”? Here are some recent examples I saw on blogs:

Currently I am happy….
It is currently 2:20 am in Australia.
I am currently age 65 and will be retiring next year.
Currently I am sitting in my big comfy chair….
Currently I like chocolate…..
Currently I am listening to an Elvis impersonator….

Those thoughts would work just fine without using the word currently at all. Some might be better by using the word “now” (I am now age 65 …..). And I suspect you can never recall chatting with a friend at a party and saying, “You know, currently I like chocolate….” Unless, of course, you’ve been known as a big butter-pecan fan in the past.

If we don’t use “currently” much when we’re talking with people, why do you think we use it so much in writing?

Another question. How long has it been since you heard someone begin every other sentence with “basically”? It seems like certain people used that word in almost every sentence for a very long time, but I can’t recall hearing multiple uses of it lately. Looks like basically has dropped out of favor, bumped off by overuse, probably.

I went to a top expert on this one, Rutgers University professor, Dr. Jack Lynch, who says qualifiers such as basically rarely add anything to a sentence. “They’re the written equivalent of ‘Um,'” he said.

We don’t hear as many of those ‘Ums’ as previously, and that’s a good thing.

On a different note, “Where’s it at?” is one expression that drives my friend, Juan, to distraction — whether the question comes from her children or from others. Echoing her own mother’s words from long ago, Juan always answers, “It’s between the A and the T.”

That’s the only logical response to such a question.

Please leave a comment.

© 2007 by Laverne Daley. All rights reserved.
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2 Comments on “My Problem with Some Plurals … And Other Musings”

  1. How about the phrase made popular by a cell phone commercial, “Where you at?” It’s the new hello.

    I’ve also noticed the word clearly popping up in both conversation and in writing.

    Great post. I find your blog both entertaining and helpful. Thanks, Michele

  2. ldaley says:

    Thanks so much for your kind words, Michele, and also for reminding me about the word clearly. I’d have used that too had I remembered it.

    I really like your blog and I admire the way you use quotations. Always finding the perfect quotation for each posts — subtle but very telling. Love the way you do that. Sorry I haven’t put those comments on your posts yet. I will soon.


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