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... vira ...viri ... viruses ??

Posted: Sat Aug 26, 2006 10:13 pm
by Phil White

Singular or plural use of data is shifting all the time. At one time, it used to be more usual to use the singular in the States and the plural in the UK, but I think that has moved considerably now. You will still find some people who cling to the notion that the Latin word was plural, so the English word must also be plural, but nowadays, it's largely a matter of taste or house style. I go with Louis on this one and generally use a singular verb, although there are occasions when I am writing about individual data items and hence use a plural verb. Having said that, I would generally describe what items I'm talking about (e.g. data packets) if I need the plural.

I've been translating IT texts for nigh on 20 years now and have always preferred the singular and found that the plural sticks out like a sore thumb if I read it in a trade mag.

... vira ...viri ... viruses ??

Posted: Mon Aug 28, 2006 4:39 am
by paulwiggins
English is not Latin, as Fowler points out.

... vira ...viri ... viruses ??

Posted: Mon Aug 28, 2006 5:11 am
by Erik_Kowal
I hasten to point out that English is not Tagalog either, just in case this too should have escaped general notice.

... vira ...viri ... viruses ??

Posted: Mon Aug 28, 2006 9:34 am
by Edwin Ashworth
I'm not sure English is even English any more.

... vira ...viri ... viruses ??

Posted: Thu Jan 24, 2013 12:13 pm
by Erik_Kowal
I wonder what it is then?

... vira ...viri ... viruses ??

Posted: Thu Jan 24, 2013 1:12 pm
by zmjezhd
Viri is the correct plural of virus (slime) and also rather coincidentally vir (man) so perhaps the computer will be safe from him as well.

A lot of strange opinions about Latin plurals. (And a thread that predates my joining these forums.

While many nouns that end in -us in Latin are masculine, not all of them are. Most second declension nouns that end in -us are indeed masculine, but not all; some are feminine and others are neuter. (It's a different case in third declension, .e.g., corpus is neuter as well as opus) and in the fourth declension where manus is feminine.

Back to virus. It is a neuter second declension noun, and like almost all of them, it lacks a plural.

See a good Latin reference grammar, such as Hale & Buck (link). Virus is discussed at the bottom of page 35.

BTW, the plural of opus 'work' is opera, which like data is mostly singular. It's neuter which is why the phrase magnum opus 'big work' is correct in Latin, not *magnus opus.

Since we're on the topic of classic grammar, in Ancient Greek, many neuter plural nouns took singular concord in the verb.

... vira ...viri ... viruses ??

Posted: Thu Jan 24, 2013 4:58 pm
by Edwin F Ashworth
No, viri is not the correct plural of virus any more than الزرافات is the plural of giraffe. The website is English-language-orientated, and loanwords are treated as fully-paid-up members of the English lexicon. Inflections are sanctioned by the King, not the Pope. (Though the President sometimes throws his weight around.)

If in doubt (or especially if in no doubt but just plain wrong), one should consult two or three English dictionaries to ascertain usage. I've gone through five, and the only one that mentions viri says 'proscribed'. The rest give viruses as the plural of the English word virus. Notice that we're not talking about the Latin etymon. In any case, the reference in the post on page 1 says that there was no Latin plural for their virus.

This is corroborated by the relevant Google Ngram at ... g=3&share= , where the occurrence of viri in English is negligible nowadays.

Re: ... vira ...viri ... viruses ??

Posted: Thu Jan 24, 2013 6:13 pm
by zmjezhd
In any case, the reference in the post on page 1 says that there was no Latin plural for their virus.

You talking to me or the other guy. I did not see any reference (link or Ken's summary of virus in English?) in the post on page 1. I was not so much posting about the plural of virus in English, which I think most people agree is viruses, but about the lack of a plural in Latin.

I find it amusing when people try to force a Latin plural on people using the perfectly valid English plural and then getting it wrong. I've seen the same thing with opus, opii [sic]

Re: ... vira ...viri ... viruses ??

Posted: Thu Jan 24, 2013 9:06 pm
by Edwin F Ashworth
Hi, Jim - I'm pointing out that once assimilated into English, words (and constructions) often break free of constraints they may have had in the mother tongue. paulwiggins's comment (from Fowler) that 'English is not Latin' is very true: as an illustration

The spurious rule about not ending sentences with prepositions is a remnant of Latin grammar, in which a preposition was the one word that a writer could not end a sentence with. But Latin grammar should never straightjacket English grammar. (Garner's Modern American Usage, Oxford University Press, 2003)

What I'm saying is that one needs to look at what is now considered correct (and whether it works, which may not be the same thing) - where it came from may be interesting, but doesn't trump usage.

By the way, the link I mention is in haro's first post in this thread.

Re: ... vira ...viri ... viruses ??

Posted: Fri Jan 25, 2013 2:15 am
by Wizard of Oz
.. I like this observation ..
1. (proscribed) Plural form of virus.

Usage notes
This plural is non-standard, but is used jocularly. The standard plural is viruses.
.. don't know about other sides of ditches but in Aus a favourite way of taking the mick out of something is to "Latinise" it .. Latin has always been associated, in Aus, with toffs and snobs, so pretending something is Latin makes it a joke ..


Re: ... vira ...viri ... viruses ??

Posted: Fri Jan 25, 2013 11:45 am
by Edwin F Ashworth
So XXXX is an upper-class tipple?

Re: ... vira ...viri ... viruses ??

Posted: Fri Jan 25, 2013 12:21 pm
by Erik_Kowal
Well, it's as upper-class as a four-letter wort can can ever be...

Re: ... vira ...viri ... viruses ??

Posted: Fri Jan 25, 2013 3:21 pm
by zmjezhd
Thanks for pointing out the link, which I missed the first and second time I looked over this topic. I did notice that the author of the piece alleges that pelagus another second declension neuter noun 'sea' lacked a plural, but according to Hale & Buck, to whom I linked, there is ararew plural (using Greek morphology) pelage. The word itself is a borrowing from Greek.

I agree that once a word has been borrowed in English, its pronunciation, meaning, and morphology usually change. People who insist on using the morphology of the language from which words are borrowed, e.g., fora rather than forums, usually slip up as in the case of virus.

Re: ... vira ...viri ... viruses ??

Posted: Sat Jan 26, 2013 1:44 am
by Erik_Kowal
While I accept all that, zmjezhd, there are some commonly-heard usages that still grate on me, particularly plural forms that are treated as though they are singular:

An alumni (versus alumnus / alumna)
A bacteria (vs. bacterium)
A criteria (vs. criterion)

I've noticed that the anomalous usages always seem to go in one direction only, namely by transforming the plural forms into the singular ones.

In other words, you never come across the following forms (or at least, I haven't):

These / some / several (etc.) alumnus / alumna
These / some / several (etc.) bacterium
These / some / several (etc.) criterion

I'm not sure why this is.

Re: ... vira ...viri ... viruses ??

Posted: Sat Jan 26, 2013 1:41 pm
by Edwin F Ashworth
An alumni being one who spells 'aluminium' 'aluminum'?

And doesn't use the plural 'aluminia'?
(Aluminiums: [part-]aluminium products, eg aluminised blinds)

Aluminum graters are to be avoided.