Nouns That Can Only Be Plural

The idea for this list is courtesy of the inestimable Billy Frolick.

Some nouns in English are always plural.   Can we add to this list?

pants (also slacks, trousers, pantaloons, shorts, etc.)

scissors

pliers

pajamas

suds

 

The standard explanation for this phenomenon is that these are things that essentially have two parts.   Yet we talk intelligibly about the buttock.   (Too intelligibly, some might say.)    What’s the diff?   Is it more “things with legs” than “things with two parts”? No, apparently, because, courtesy of Prof. T.F.T., here’s:

thanks (the noun)

heebie-jeebies

fantods

congratulations

Kudos to Caitlin for:

coveralls

tights

tweezers

tongs

binoculars

glasses

It has been suggested that the principle involved in most of these nouns isn’t “things with legs” but “things with crotches,” or whatever you want to call the thing that joins the two “legs.”   One doesn’t want to think of glasses as having a crotch.   I don’t, anyway.   Still, that doesn’t explain thanks and congratulations.   Also

kudos

A Hatlo hat tip to B. Frolick for

oodles

scads

alms

(Oddly, “lots” doesn’t work, because you can have a lot of something.   But you can’t have an oodle  or a scad, which is just as well, since it sounds like  part of a bad  song lyric.)

From Katharine Weber, whose terrific novel True Confections has just come out, these excellent additions:

mathematics

gallows

headquarters

news

barracks

crossroads

series

species

economics

dregs

(I’m not sure, though, about “species” and “crossroads.”   Can’t something be a   specie? Can’t a road be a crossroad?)

Late-breaking bulletin on “kudos”

Many thanks to Siri Gottlieb, who points out that “kudos” is not plural. It is a Greek word meaning honor, glory or acclaim, and is singular.
Correct: Much kudos to you for pulling it off.
Incorrect: Many kudos to you for pulling it off.

In other words, there’s no such word as “kudo.”

Of course, you can find dictionaries (such as the Online Webster’s) that legitimize “kudo.”   Let’s face it, dictionaries will inevitably  legitimize anything, including “incredulous” for “incredible,” and that’s only right (she said manfully), English being a living, organic thing, and blah blah blah.    Still at the end of the day you have to pick a dictionary and stick with it.   My own Ultimate Authority is  the Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Second Edition, which, it turns out, does not recognize “kudo.”   So I won’t either.

I love the Second. You can keep your Oxford; the Second is the dictionary of the American language. In time, the two of us will sink  for good  beneath the waves, our pages floating free,  but right now we’re still afloat (barely).

Thanks, Siri!

By the way, here’s a nice page considering this topic, connecting kudos to peas and cherries:

http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/000507.html

The Lifted Brow

is an Australian “attack journal,” and its No. 6 edition is available for pre-order.   (They are printing to order: the more orders, the more copies.) No. 6 is their World Atlas edition, made up of one book and 2 CDs, and featuring writing by, among others, Rick Moody, David Foster Wallace, me, and Thomas Benjamin Guerney’s Flabbergastic Travelling Troupe of Limericists.   Everybody got to pick a place to write or sing about.   I picked Hell.  

If you’re interested in knowing more, here’s a helpful link:

http://www.theliftedbrow.com/?p=242