18 August 2008

we want...a count noun!

it's great that Language Log has enabled comments on some of their posts, but it's all the more frustrating when i have something pithy to say and they're turned off. this is a would-be comment in response to Arnold Zwicky's post Countification.

in describing the difference between mass and count nouns in English, he says that shrub is a count noun while shrubbery is a mass noun. while i can certainly use shrubbery as a mass noun, i rarely talk about shrubbery at all, and when i do, i'm almost always quoting Monty Python.

throughout the Knights Who Say 'Ni!' sketch, shrubbery is used consistently as a count noun, taking determiners such as a and another, and having a plural form shrubberies. i never thought of these as ungrammatical in any way, although i suppose it would add to the humor, although the pure absurdity of the scene is plenty. we of course also have Monty Python to thank for the brilliant backformation shrubber (n.) - one who arranges, designs, and sells shrubberies.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It appears to me that Arnold Zwicky NEVER enables comments any more. I don't think this is necessarily bloody-mindedness; I'm guessing he's got some spammy enemy "out there". (And we owe "spam" to the Pythons, as well. Where would we be without them?)