buttocks (singular or plural?)

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buttocks (singular or plural?)

Post by Ken Greenwald » Wed Oct 10, 2007 5:27 am

Speaking of singular or plural, as we currently are in the Usage and Writing forum, in Bill Bryson’s Notes from a Small Island [[a.k.a Britain]] he is describing the wonders of the British Ordnance Survey maps and the incredible detail that they provide when he says:
<“They include every wrinkle and divot on the landscape, every barn, milestone, wind pump, and tumulus [[an ancient grave mound]]. They distinguish between sand pits and gravel pits and between power lines strung from pylons and power lines strung from poles. This one even included the stone seat on which I sat now. It astounds me to be able to look on a map and know to the square meter where my BUTTOCKS ARE deployed.”>
But should BUTTOCKS be singular, or plural as Bryson has opted for? Well, most of us have two of them (except for the half-assed among us) so it seems like it should be plural. And individually they are singular (left buttock and right buttock). But on the other hand the two could be considered as a singular pair. Well, maybe they’re both O.K.

Consulting the American Heritage Dictionary, which is usually short, sweet, and accurate we have:

BUTTOCK noun

1a) Either of two rounded prominences on the human torso that are posterior to the hips and formed by the gluteal muscles and underlying structures. 1b) The analogous part of the body on certain mammals.

2) BUTTOCKS: The rear pelvic area of the human body.
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It looks to me that in 1a) ‘buttock’ is singular, so if one is talking of two buttocks it would be plural. However, in 2) it seems that if buttocks is viewed as an ‘area,’ and since ‘area’ is singular this buttocks is could be taken as singular in this instance. Since a butt may be thought of either way In light of these two distinct possibilities, it would seem that singular or plural is correct.

On the other hand, if a BUTTOCK is thought of as a cheek, which it is, one would never say my “cheeks is,” which would argue for the plural being the correct form. After looking in several dictionaries I don’t see that the issue has been addressed, but maybe I missed it. So until I see something definitive on this one, for guidance I’ll check what folks in respectable sources have said:
<1898 “. . .the lumbar curve is more pronounced and the BUTTOCKS ARE more prominent.”—‘American Anthropologist,’ Vol. 11, No. 11, November, page 350>

<1910 “If your companion’s foot is pierced by a thorn, and if your BUTTOCKS ARE pierced (as well), take out first of all (the one) from your buttocks. (Cf. the Masai proverb . . . Do not repair another man’s fence until you have seen to your own. ‘Charity begins at home.’)”— ‘Journal of the Royal African Society,’ Vol. 9, No. 35, Taveta Sayings and Proverbs, April, page 256>

<1920 “In both the Forest Pygmy and Forest Negro the BUTTOCKS ARE usually no more—sometimes less—developed in the white man . . .”—‘Journal of the Royal African Society,’ Vol. 19, No. 76, July, page 255>

<1930 “The BUTTOCKS ARE large (steatopygy [[extreme accumulation of fat on and about the buttocks, especially of women]]) and the abdomen and breasts are fully modelled, but at the same time the figurine is provided with male genitals.”—‘Man,’ Vol. 30, November, page 198>

<1941 “For in African sculpture the knees of figures are almost universally slightly bent, and the BUTTOCKS ARE commonly steatopygous.”—‘The Art Bulletin,’ Vol. 23, No. 3, September, page 195>

<1956 “. . . where a woman’s BUTTOCKS ARE seen as enormous grindstones and a woman’s nipples as are seen as little red hats . . .:—‘American Quarterly,’ Vol. 8, No. 4, Winter, page 325>

<1972 “The BUTTOCKS ARE not used unless the skin and fat are loose enough to be pinched.”—‘The American Journal of Nursing,’ Vol. 72, No. 12, December, page 2194>

<1985 “”One is lying nude on her stomach, but her BUTTOCKS ARE demurely covered by a towel.”—‘The Journal of Sex Research,’ Vol. 21, No. 2, May, page 224>

<1995 “The BUTTOCKS IS a man’s in the biological sense but not in the ethical sense . . .”— ‘Journal of Aesthetic Education,’ Vol. 29, No. 2, Summer, page 37>

<2000 “His thoughts are taken up in anticipating what his neck will know when his BUTTOCKS ARE pulled down and away, earthward, from their more nonchalant seat of consciousness.”—‘South Central Review,’ Vol. 17, No. 3, Cinema Engage: Activist Filmmaking in French and Francophone Contexts. Autumn, , page 89>

<2006 “Many medications designed to be delivered by injection into a major muscle group, such as the buttocks, don't make it into muscle when the BUTTOCKS ARE overly fat, said Dr. Chan.”—‘Healthcare Purchasing News,’ 1 January>
So in the vast majority of the cases – I found only one instance of BUTTOCKS IS (see 1995 quote) – it looks like the BUTTOCKS AREs have it. If anyone has any thoughts or definitive info on this weighty issue, please feel free to share it with us.
______________________

Ken G – October 9, 2007
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buttocks (singular or plural?)

Post by Erik_Kowal » Wed Oct 10, 2007 6:14 am

I think the problem is that you are making an unjustified leap of linguistic logic when you write, "...it seems that if buttocks is viewed as an ‘area,’ and since ‘area’ is singular this buttocks is singular in this instance."

You have to treat each word on its own terms; to be more precise, you cannot base your perception that 'buttocks' might, or should, be singular on the fact that the word 'area' is singular, even if you are using both words to describe the same referent. (The 1995 citation is a distinct outlier in failing to respect this principle, and hence in treating 'buttocks' as a singular noun.)

Similarly, 'butt' must be treated as a separate linguistic entity even though it derives from 'buttock' and/or 'buttocks': a butt is always singular, and buttocks are always plural when the word is being used to refer to the entire posterior.

Finally, this is neither the time nor the place to slap down the tremendous cheek of the repellent ass that now sits in the White House.
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buttocks (singular or plural?)

Post by dalehileman » Wed Oct 10, 2007 2:26 pm

Most of us find him not so much repellant as ridiculous
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buttocks (singular or plural?)

Post by Berale » Wed Oct 10, 2007 3:41 pm

Look, guys, I'm no Bush fan - far from it - but I'm finding it a bit tedious the way this anti-Bush stuff keeps coming up all over the place. Maybe we should have a special place set up for this in the Addicts' Corner, so people who are interested in having a go at Bush could do it at their leisure and leave the rest of us to get on with more interesting things. Just like when I see the heading "ruggers" I know I can ignore it.
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buttocks (singular or plural?)

Post by gdwdwrkr » Wed Oct 10, 2007 4:18 pm

What!? There is some good educational information swept under the heading "ruggers"!
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buttocks (singular or plural?)

Post by trolley » Wed Oct 10, 2007 4:58 pm

It requires a bit of bushwhacking to get to it, but it's there.
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buttocks (singular or plural?)

Post by Ken Greenwald » Wed Oct 10, 2007 9:20 pm

Erik, I agree that the American Heritage definition 2) does not demand a singular usage although I think that it clearly suggests the possibility and I have accordingly modified my statement to read:
<“However, in 2) it seems that if buttocks is viewed as an ‘area,’ and since ‘area’ is singular this buttocks could be taken as singular in this instance. In light of these two distinct possibilities, it would seem that singular or plural is correct. >
A more thorough search of the literature has revealed that although the use of BUTTOCKS in the plural sense clearly constitutes the vast majority of examples, the singular sense is not all that rare, especially in medical literature. Many quotes in reference to medical devices were found, but to limit repetition I didn't include them all:
<1872 “There is always a burning or scalding sensation, and when the BUTTOCKS IS the
part affected there is pain in passing the faeces.”—‘A Treatise on Diseases of the Skin and Its Appendages’ (London) by Dr. Austin Meldon, page 78>

<1960 “In Figure 66 the BUTTOCKS IS shown divided into four quadrants.”—‘The Office Assistant in Medical Practice’ by Frederick & Towner, page 309>

<1976 “. . .men who rated A LARGE BUTTOCKS highly were obsessive, passive and bothered by guilt feelings while those who preferred A SMALL BUTTOCKS were conscientious . . .”—‘Lincoln Star’ (Nebraska), 10 October>

<1979 “. . . the BUTTOCKS IS rendered in extremely low relief.”—‘A Study of Olmec Sculptural Chronology’ by Susan Milbrath, page 9>

<1986 “The combination of a long anal canal and/or A LARGE BUTTOCKS made visibility poor
and a technically difficult anastomosis that contributed to stenosis . . .”—‘Pediatric Esophageal Surgery’ by Ashcraft & Holder, page 183>

<1986 “. . . from which it can be seen that the BUTTOCKS IS in contact only with the backrest . . . and the only portion of the body contacting the seat surface.”—‘ Patient Operated Device and Method for Applying Traction to the Lower Back’ by John A. Horner, U.S. 4,603,689, 5 August, page 5>

<1998 “In the homoerotic poetry of the Greek Anthology, the BUTTOCKS IS seen as an
extremely erotic area, . . .”—‘Homoeroticism in the Biblical World: A Historical Perspective’ by M. Nissinen, page 163>

<1999 “The BUTTOCKS IS ideally suited for sophisticated contouring as its frame is determined by the hips, thighs, and lower back and its proportions are balanced by the interior projection of the breasts.”—‘PubMed.gov’-Service of the National Library of Medicine and the National Institute of Health, Dermatology Clinics, Vol. 17(4), vi. pages 815-22>

<1999 “The BUTTOCKS IS the most commonly struck area in younger children . . .”—‘Children's Health Care,’ Vol. 28, No. 2, pages 91-108>

<1999 “It is true that the sense of equality, which Aristophanes felt very sharply, is ironically underscored in his theater by the fact that the BUTTOCKS IS called O Aristodémos [‘aristopeople’]—since both plebeians and patricians have them in common.”—‘The Tyranny of Pleasure’ by Jean Claude Guillebaud, page 213>

<1999 “In men where the BUTTOCKS IS like dough, the tight cords of the deeper lateral rotators can be palpated underneath.”—‘Out in the Open: The Complete Male Pelvis’ by Dr. Richard Louis Schultz, retired Chairman of the Department of Human Biology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Dentistry, page 101>

<2000 “The BUTTOCKS IS a popular area to have liposuctioned.”—‘Beautiful Skin: Every Woman's Guide to Looking Her Best at Any Age’ by David E. Bank, Estelle Sobel, page 189>

<2003 “For cosmetic reasons, the BUTTOCKS IS the preferred site rather than the thigh or the hip.”—‘Seminars on Reproductive Medicine,’ Vol. 21, pages 375-388>

<2003 “. . . so that when the BUTTOCKS IS fully bent the protective clothing patch is exactly in the right place.”—‘Targeted Protective Clothing Patch’ by W. N. Derkin et al, U.S. Patent 6,810,534, 5 December>

<2003 “Both the black widow and the brown recluse like to nest in outhouses and latrines (the BUTTOCKS IS the most common place for a bite).”—‘Adventure Guide to Guatemala’ by S. McNally, page 53>

<2005 “The . . . [sweatshirt] is white in colour . . . with the exception of [[an area]] on the front portion . . . where a scene is depicted. . . . The predominant feature of the scene is a rear view of a black woman with A LARGE BUTTOCKS wearing nothing but high heeled shoes and stockings, carrying a bottle and heading toward the bed.”—‘University of British Columbia Law Review,’ Negotiating the Contours of Unlawful Hate Speech: Regulation Under Provincial Human Rights Laws in Canada, by L. McNamara, Vol. 38 (1), pages 1-82>

<2007 “A similar effect can also be achieved in that the seating surface is provided with a tiltable configuration in addition or as an alternative, as a result of which the BUTTOCKS IS lowered in relationship to the knees of the sitting person.”— ‘Apparatus for Supporting the Body of a Person’ by M. Herzog, U.S. Patent 2007006956329, 29 March>

<2007 “The angle between the legs and the base is measured at the limit when the BUTTOCKS IS on the point of being elevated, or when the knees start bending. ‘Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports,’ Volume 17, Issue 5, October, pages 488-496>

<2007 “If you have determined that the BUTTOCKS IS the presenting part and that delivery
is imminent, proceed as follows: . . .”—‘Nancy Caroline's Emergency Care in the Streets’ by Nancy L. Caroline (Author), Andrew N., M.D. Pollak (Editor), Bob Elling (Editor), Mike Smith (Editor), Chapter 39>

<2007 “He explained that in Japan, in contrast to the West, women considered A LARGE BUTTOCKS vulgar.”—‘Erotic Grotesque Nonsense: The Mass Culture of Japanese Modern Times’ by Miriam Silverberg (Professor of History at the University of California, Los Angles), page 114>
(quotes from archived sources)
_____________________

Ken – October 10, 2007
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buttocks (singular or plural?)

Post by Erik_Kowal » Wed Oct 10, 2007 10:04 pm

Well, all I can say beyond what I have already stated is that treating 'buttocks' as a singular noun is something I find alien. That's not to say that if enough people start using the word in this way it may eventually be regarded as Standard English -- after all, this is how languages change and evolve.

I wonder how many of those medical practitioners you have quoted are non-native speakers of English?
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buttocks (singular or plural?)

Post by gdwdwrkr » Thu Oct 11, 2007 9:20 am

Ken Greenwald wrote:

So in the vast majority of the cases – I found only one instance of BUTTOCKS IS (see 1995 quote) – it looks like the BUTTOCKS AREs have it. If anyone has any thoughts or definitive info on this weighty issue, please feel free to share it with us.
______________________

Ken G – October 9, 2007



The vast majority would not see this as split-down-the-middle.
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buttocks (singular or plural?)

Post by agilis » Fri Oct 12, 2007 1:25 am

The Lady Cunegonde's old servant woman had some experience with this issue, and the occasional utility of half-measures.
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buttocks (singular or plural?)

Post by Shelley » Fri Oct 12, 2007 1:49 am

Forrest Gump was "shot in the buttock", in no uncertain terms.

As serendipity would have it, I turned on the TV in a moment of blessed idleness, and what should appear on the screen but Tom Hank's innocent Forrest Gump face answering the question from his park-bench mate:
"It was a bullet, wasn't it? . . . The thing that jumped up and bit you?"
"Yes. It was a bullet that hit me in the buttocks . . . I got shot in the buttocks."

So. A bullet, singular, hit Forrest in the buttocks, plural, in no uncertain terms. I love it when the universe makes me wrong (correcting, and thereby making me "right") so conveniently and sometimes very quickly!
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buttocks (singular or plural?)

Post by Ken Greenwald » Fri Oct 12, 2007 6:11 am

My curiousnessosity (which did kill the cat - my ferocious feline, Sprinkles, just gave me a dirty look) about the singular or plural BUTTOCKS led me to do yet a thorougher search, if a thorougher search were possible, which it were (&gt), and I found 13 additional singular usages which I have added to the original 7 quotes of my last posting above. I would note that a number of those are from seemingly very respectable English-speaking sources (e.g. quotes from 1872, last 1999, 2005, last 2007). So I would say that between the evidence of the opening presented by the American Heritage Dictionary definition 2) and the weight of the above quotes, that progress is definitely being made on the road to the singular sense being regarded as Standard English.
_______________________

Ken G – October 11, 2007
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buttocks (singular or plural?)

Post by paulwiggins » Fri Oct 12, 2007 6:45 am

But note the singular and plural forms of whakapohane are the same. (see http://www.northernadvocate.co.nz/story ... ID=3720507). I think this one now counts as being adopted into English.
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buttocks (singular or plural?)

Post by agilis » Fri Oct 12, 2007 5:07 pm

Perhaps the truth lies in the spiritual quality possessed by buttocks. Like the Trinity, it/they are a divine mystery, the unity of more than one entity in a single being. Get St. Patrick to show you the shamrock tattooed on his buttocks. Not sure which one.
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buttocks (singular or plural?)

Post by Erik_Kowal » Fri Oct 12, 2007 5:15 pm

I've heard of the tramp stamp (the tattoo often found these days on the small of a young woman's back), but do we also now have to contend with saint paint?
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