Date: Wed, 20 Sep 1995 14:39:28 EDT


Subject: tardys vs. tardies

Tom Uharriet asks:

A student is marked tardy again for being late to class. Does s/he

ask, "How many _tardys_ do I have now?" or

"How many _tardies_ do I have now?"

I see it in local print both ways. Neither is in the dictionary. Is

one spelling "right"?

This hinges on the use/mention distinction (see Quine, at your own risk).

Both plurals are "right", but they're plurals of different objects. If 'tardy'

is a noun with the meaning of 'an instance of tardiness' or 'a record of an

instance of tardiness', its plural is _tardies_, as with virtually any -y-

final noun. If you're pluralizing not _tardy_ but "tardy", i.e. a notation of

that form, the plural will be essentially _"tardy"s_, although the quotes may

not appear. Thus more than one floppy (disk) is (or are) floppies, but more

than one "sloppy" or "crappy" will be "sloppy"s or "crappy"s, as in

Teacher gave me back my paper with 8 red "sloppy"s scrawled on it.

You use too many "lousy"s and "crappy"s in your speech.

The hesitation in "tardy" suggests that for at least some writers, _tardy_--

unlike _crappy_ or _lousy_--has become lexicalized as a noun.