Date: Thu, 22 Jan 1998 15:09:59 -0500 From: Alan Baragona Subject: At 02:36 PM 1/22/98 EST, Michael Montgomery wrote: >A student has raised a question about English grammar that I am not sure >I can answer: why does _fiche_, which certainly seems to be a count noun, >have a zero plural? That is: one fiche, fifteen fiche, etc. I do not >see that the noun is a reduction from a phrase such as "xx page(s) of >(micro)fiche." Another student puckishly suggested that _fiche_ so >behaves because of its closeness in pronunciation to _fish_. Additions >to the language are not supposed to have zero plurals, are they? > >Michael Montgomery >Dept of English >Univ of South Carolina >Columbia SC 29208 > In fact, American Heritage Dictionary does give "microfiches" as a secondary plural form. So the question is why the preference for the zero plural in common usage, as well as in the dictionary. Could it have something to do with influence by the phonetics of the original French? The plural final wouldn't be pronounced in French, and the English word maintains a French quality in both the and . If we Anglicized the French plural and pronounced the , would the final [z] in "fiches" make us want to Anglicize the plural form of the word to sound like "fitch" (short central and affricate --wish I could do IPA in e-mail), so to maintain the "base" pronunciation on the French model, we just use a zero plural? Is that all too convoluted? Is Ockham spinning in his grave? Is it just because "fiche" seems so amorphous that we just don't think of the individual sheets. Even if I check individual sheets of microfiche, I say "I'm checking the microfiche" in a singular sense, the same way I say (or used to say) "I'm checking the card catalogue." Alan Baragona baragonasa[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] You know, years ago, my mother used to say to me, she'd say, "In this world, Elwood, you must be . . ."--she always called me 'Elwood'--"In this world, Elwood, you must be oh, so smart or oh, so pleasant." Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. And you may quote me. Elwood P. Dowd