Talk:modus operandi

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Tea room discussion[edit]

Note: the below discussion was moved from the Wiktionary:Tea room.

Modus operandi is singular with the plural being modi operandi. However, there are ~280 bgc and ~750 groups hits for modus operandum and another 66 bgc and ~100 groups hits for modus operanda, both treated as a singular, which presumably stem from treating modus operandi as a plural.

We obviously should have these in Wiktionary, but I'm not sure how we should categorise them or how we should note them on the [[[modus operandi]]] entry. Thryduulf 15:59, 5 November 2008 (UTC)

I'd like to help, but I'm suffering from infection by bacterias. DCDuring TALK 17:05, 5 November 2008 (UTC)
I would rate those as common errors, and create them as {{misspelling of}} entries. Unlike the situation in bacteria/bacterium discussion, these alternative forms aren't remotely plausible in Latin. --EncycloPetey 18:25, 5 November 2008 (UTC)
They aren't misspellings, however, but incorrect deduction of how singulars and plurals work in Latin. Double plurals and other such irregularities occur from time to time in English. How about a usage note saying to the effect that "careful speakers avoid..."Wakablogger 02:51, 16 January 2009 (UTC)
They're tantamount to saying the plural of "Chinese New Year" is "Chineses News Years". They're errors, plain and simple. It's more than "careful speakers avoid", but "grossly incorrect". --EncycloPetey 05:19, 16 January 2009 (UTC)
If a large percentage of native English speakers say "Chineses News Years," then its validity should be considered. There are many, many cases like this, such as cherubs, which has become accepted, and agenda, which has become a singular noun in English. In any case, modus operandum is not a spelling error, and including the expression "grossly incorrect" in a usage note seems excessively prescriptivist and inappropriate to Wiktionary. There is a reasonable chance that this form may spread, and the pros and cons of using it should be explained to the user. Wakablogger 09:10, 16 January 2009 (UTC)
It "may spread" is a prediction of what may happen in the future. We need not concern ourselves with such predictions. Your cherubs example is not parallel; it is a plural formed according to regular rules for English nouns. If we were discussing "modus operandis" or "moduses operandi", then your example might be pertinent. But modus operandi is a Latin phrase borrowed into English, where the erroneuous "singulars" under discussion are not formed according to the regular rules of either language. As you say "if a large percentage of native English speakers say", then we might consider it, but in this case, the percentage is slight: 76 to 4,710. That's less than 2%, which is usually considered negligible. --EncycloPetey 09:31, 16 January 2009 (UTC)
There are lots of other pertinent examples, but I think what is really key is that Google has 1.9 million hits for "modus operandum" and that this is not a spelling issue. People are clearly using this form and a note should explain the issues, not just dismiss them as being "grossly incorrect". Wakablogger 10:09, 16 January 2009 (UTC)
OK, why don’t you suggest the rationale underpinning those forms which seem to be nothing more than misspellings to me, EP, &c.? In Latin, no other forms beside modus and modi operandi make sense… (Besides modus[1] and modi operandorum[2], perhaps?)  (u):Raifʻhār (t):Doremítzwr﴿ 19:19, 16 January 2009 (UTC)
For example, locus -> loci, radius -> radii. This is a set pattern in English for words of Latin derivation that speakers are applying. A misspelling would be nodus operandi. (BTW, &c. looks standard to me. Wasn't that common in the nineteenth century?) Wakablogger 20:34, 16 January 2009 (UTC)
Yes it was. By now, the most common abbreviation of et cætera is etc. The ampersand used to be used far more often than it is now (such as in place of “and” in running text, far more frequently than it is employed nowadays).  (u):Raifʻhār (t):Doremítzwr﴿ 19:48, 18 January 2009 (UTC)
And how exactly does the pattern locus -> loci give rise to "modus operanda"? There is no pattern in Latin or English of -a -> -i, which is what would be required to produce the erroneous form. Again, your example has no relevance to the issue under consideration. --EncycloPetey 20:42, 16 January 2009 (UTC)
You are right there is no exact such pattern. But claiming 1.9 million of these to be spelling errors is unreasonable. Clearly, people are basing it on items like locus -> loci--which does indeed fit if the -s is treated as replaceable with the -m and which is a perfectly sensible inference--bacterium -> bacteria, medium -> media. I am open to another explanation, but nobody seems to be offering anything. Wakablogger 01:23, 17 January 2009 (UTC)
How did you arrive at a figure of 1.9 million? I only got 67.7K [3]. --EncycloPetey 01:30, 17 January 2009 (UTC)

I just did another search and found I was searching only on a limited range of pages. When I searched on Google's entire database, I get 2.7 million for "modus operandum." Wakablogger 02:01, 17 January 2009 (UTC)

And you'll find that a significant fraction of those pages do not contain the term you searched for. Google's "exact search" is not as exact as people believe. It is sloppy with respect to matching the endings of words. Go back and look at the b.g.c. (i.e. CFI-relevant) percentages; it's less than 2%. --EncycloPetey 02:12, 17 January 2009 (UTC)
I'm one of the people who thought the singular form ended in an -m. (I never used it because I always look it up in an dictionary, but that's what my thought was.) My guess is that I and so many others think so for the following reasons: We know that it's Latin and that it has an odd ending. We know that -i is the plural and we have to get it back to the singular form somehow. My guess is that we model the singular after bacterium and memorandum. I don't know what bgc or CFI-relevant means, but when I search for "modus operandum," I see lots of hits in sentences written by intelligent people who are not making spelling errors. On the 22nd page of hits: If so the modus operandum suggests he was drugged or not fully under control. On the 30th page: This change to CGT can severely affect the modus operandum of many smaller high potential companies. On the 38th page: Proposal with CC partners on modus operandum for implementation of access of Accessing Countries' patients to EU facilities (Autumn 2004). The claim that so many people are consistently misspelling this as "modus operandum" when there are only 101 hits for "nodus operandi" just doesn't make sense. Wakablogger 06:43, 17 January 2009 (UTC)
Sure it does. Misspelling the first letter is very rare. I can find hits for modus operandus, and a half dozen other errors where the ending of the word is wrong. That doesn't mean they're valid in any way. We usually look at the percentage, and the percentage is low. It's an error. I can find numerous pages where "from" was intended, but the word is spelled "form", but that doesn't make it a valid alternative. We still would call that an error even if we catalogued half a million examples. --EncycloPetey 07:24, 17 January 2009 (UTC)
Okay, so not the first letter, the last letter. If you look at the last letters, I'm sure you'll find that operandum is much more frequent. I've given examples, a reasonable explanation of why this might be so, yadda yadda yadda. I even explained that I make this error and gave a reasonable explanation of why that might be true. "Form" and "from" is a misspelling issue, not a grammatical one. Modus operandum is a grammatical error not a spelling one. It is in common use and will perhaps become common just as cherubs has overtaken cherubim and formulas has overtaken formulae. Whether it does or not, it is and will continue to be a common form that deserves a explanation, not looking-down-the-nose-at-the-user dismissal. This is my last posting on this discussion. Wakablogger 07:42, 17 January 2009 (UTC)