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H.L. Mencken (1880–1956). The American Language. 1921.

Page 252

sopranos and soli for solos, but the last two, at least, are common in England. Both English and American labor under the lack of native plurals for the two everyday titles, Mister and Missus. In the written speech, and in the more exact forms of the spoken speech, the French plurals, Messieurs and Mesdames, are used, but in the ordinary spoken speech, at least in America, they are avoided by circumlocution. When Messieurs has to be spoken it is almost invariably pronounced messers, and in the same way Mesdames becomes mez-dames, with the first syllable rhyming with sez and the second, which bears the accent, with games. In place of Mesdames a more natural form, Madames, seems to be gaining ground in America. Thus, I have found Dames du Sacrè Cœur translated as Madames of the Sacred Heart in a Catholic paper of wide circulation, 48 and the form is apparently used by American members of the community.
  Dr. Louise Pound 49 notes that a number of Latin plurals tend to become singular nouns in colloquial American, notably curricula, data, dicta, insignia and strata, and with them a few Greek plurals, e. g., criteria and phenomena. She reports hearing the following uses of them: “The curricula of the institution is being changed,” “This data is very significant,” “The dicta, ‘Go West,’ is said to have come from Horace Greeley,” “What is that insignia on his sleeve?”, “This may be called the Renaissance strata of loan-words,” “That is no criteria,” and “What a strange phenomena!”—all by speakers presumed to be of some education. The error leads to the creation of double plurals, e. g., curriculas, insignias, stratas, stimulis, alumnis, bacillis, narcissis. The Latin names of plants lead to frequent blunders. Cosmos and gladiolus are felt to be plurals, and from them, by folk-etymology, come the false singulars, cosma and gladiola. Dr. Pound notes many other barbarous plurals, not mentioned above, e. g., antennas, cerebras, alumnas, alumnuses, narcissuses, apparatuses, emporiums, opuses, criterions, amœbas, cactuses, phenomenons.