Wiktionary:Votes/pl-2008-06/Plurals from proper nouns

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Plurals from proper nouns[edit]

  • Voting on:
    Whereas, English proper nouns, per se, do not have plurals;
    Whereas, it is a regular feature of English proper nouns that they may be used as common nouns (e.g. “Do I know a Jacob?” meaning “Do I know a person named Jacob?”);
    Whereas, these proper-nouns-used-as-common-nouns frequently appear in the plural (e.g. “I know several Jacobs” meaning “I know several people named Jacob”);
    Whereas, it is our policy to include proper nouns, where attested (though not names of specific people), and plurals of common nouns, where attested,
    Be it resolved that we shall include plurals, where attested, of proper-nouns-used-as-common-nouns;
    that we shall use the part-of-speech header "Noun" for such entries, not the part-of-speech header "Proper noun";
    that we shall not define them simply as "plural form of", but rather, that we shall define them in a way that makes clear their relationship to the proper noun whence they derive;
    that we shall not list them as simply "plural" in the inflection lines of the entries for the proper nouns whence they derive, but rather, if we include them at all, it shall be in a way that makes clear aforementioned relationship;
    and that we shall not otherwise include common noun senses of proper nouns, except in unusual circumstances where such inclusion is specially considered suitable.
  • Vote ends: 9 July 13 July 2008 23:59 UTC
    Extended. DAVilla 00:28, 5 July 2008 (UTC)
  • Vote started: 9 June 2008 23:59 UTC


  1. Symbol support vote.svg Supportmsh210 18:51, 11 June 2008 (UTC)
  2. Symbol support vote.svg Support Thryduulf 20:02, 11 June 2008 (UTC)
  3. Symbol support vote.svg Support -Atelaes λάλει ἐμοί 20:13, 11 June 2008 (UTC) Upon seeing the vote title, I did not think that I could vote support for this vote, regardless of which side it took, as both sides were too problematic. But, I can't vote any other way for such a perfect proposal. Well done Ruakh. -Atelaes λάλει ἐμοί 20:13, 11 June 2008 (UTC)
    Thanks! :-D   —RuakhTALK 17:12, 14 June 2008 (UTC)
  4. Symbol support vote.svg Support Daniel. 06:37, 12 June 2008 (UTC)
  5. Symbol support vote.svg Support SemperBlotto 16:28, 13 June 2008 (UTC)
  6. Symbol support vote.svg Support Very nicely specified. So we get plurals only when there is something else to say about them, and they aren't just "defined" with the crappy "plural of". Very good. Robert Ullmann 16:36, 13 June 2008 (UTC)
    Thanks, but to clarify, the above wording specifies that we'd always include these plurals (provided they're attested), not just when there's something else to say about them; and while it forbids their being defined as simply "plural of ____", it wouldn't prohibit a new template along the lines of "plural of extended common-noun uses of _____" or some such. (If you want to change your vote, I'll understand.) —RuakhTALK 17:12, 14 June 2008 (UTC)
    No, it says "if we include them at all", which implies that we won't always include them. It also says that we won't define them as "plural form of...", which means that your suggested "expanded" template would be prohibited by this vote. --EncycloPetey 21:55, 14 June 2008 (UTC)
    The "if we include them at all" bit was in the context of "the inflection lines of the entries for the proper nouns whence they derive". But, for the sake of argument, allow me to take your interpretation over mine of a sentence that I myself wrote, not two weeks ago … you're quite right that, if this vote passes, we won't always include them: rather, we'll only include them when they're attested.
    As for your second sentence, that's not true, as you'll see if you re-read the sentence in question. It says that we won't define them simply as "plural form of", but that we'll define them in a way that makes clear the relationship between, say, Jacob and Jacobs. The issue I was trying to address is that simply putting {{plural of|[[Jacob]]}} is unhelpful, since it's the plural of a common noun Jacob that we don't define.
    (To clarify, I'm not actually advocating such a broad catch-call template; in the case of names, for example, I think I'd prefer a definition along the lines of Persons named [[Jacob]]., or perhaps a given-name–specific template that expands to this or a similar phrase. However, I see that as a matter for further discussion and experimentation if this vote passes: the basic idea is that plurals from proper nouns warrant inclusion, but that it's inaccurate and unhelpful to pretend that they're really just plurals of proper nouns or that they're really used as proper nouns themselves. All other details will require hammering out if we accept this premise. In an ideal world I'd have a perfect solution all made up and ready and could have presented that for this vote, but I don't, and even as it is at least one editor thinks I've specified too many details.)
    RuakhTALK 23:32, 14 June 2008 (UTC)
  7. Symbol support vote.svg SupportRuakhTALK 17:12, 14 June 2008 (UTC)
  8. Symbol support vote.svg Support EncycloPetey 00:37, 15 June 2008 (UTC) While there are aspects of the vote and proposal I'm not fully satisfied with, the current version seems like a workable starting point for consensus. --EncycloPetey 00:37, 15 June 2008 (UTC)
  9. Symbol support vote.svg Support —Stephen 12:55, 15 June 2008 (UTC)
  10. Symbol support vote.svg Support sewnmouthsecret 18:38, 16 June 2008 (UTC)
  11. Symbol support vote.svg Support DAVilla 04:14, 17 June 2008 (UTC) In the singular cases, it might make sense to use "proper noun" as a context tag instead of listing it in the heading. (Edited. DAVilla)
    I've given that idea some thought, and think that it would look too much like usage information to users. That is a "proper" tag would look like the opposite of "slang", and would likely confuse ELs, even if we used the full proper noun on the definition line. Personally, I think the distinction between what we call a proper noun and a common noun is at least as significant as the difference between a common noun and a pronoun. The grammar of a proper noun is actually closer to that of a pronoun than to a common noun. --EncycloPetey 20:35, 17 June 2008 (UTC)
    Hmmm... yeah, maybe not. DAVilla 20:52, 18 June 2008 (UTC)
  12. Symbol support vote.svg Support Rod (A. Smith) 21:14, 18 June 2008 (UTC) I'm not certain we need to keep the distinction between nouns and proper nouns, but this vote isn't about that. Given that we do distinguish between them, this proposal seems quite sensible to me. Rod (A. Smith) 21:14, 18 June 2008 (UTC)
  13. Symbol support vote.svg Support Whether or not this vote passes, Jesuses will be kept because it's the plural of the non-proper Noun sense which I added to Jesus some time ago. Language Lover 02:27, 14 July 2008 (UTC)


  1. Symbol oppose vote.svg Oppose Dodde 23:24, 10 June 2008 (UTC) -- Agreeing to the analyze, but opposing to the solution. Counter-proposal: 1) Never add separate headers for common noun uses of the proper nouns (that means "no plural pages" and "no extra headings on main pages"). and 2) Add a template or link explaining this Proper noun-to-common noun-uses to each proper noun article (making plurals of common noun senses searchable and explained in a way that takes much less work, but will be more clear and easy to work with).
  2. Symbol oppose vote.svg Oppose I'm no grammarian, but the premise is wrong. The Frances of Louis and Napoleon do not become common nouns when referred to together. And regardless of that, attested plural forms of proper nouns need only be listed in the inflection line rather than cluttering entries with more headings to convey their spelling. Michael Z. 2008-06-13 16:26 z
    Re: "The Frances of Louis and Napoleon do not become common nouns when referred to together.": Indeed not: they are already common nouns when referred to separately, as in "The France of Louis" and "The France of Napoleon". One can even speak of "a France": "Napoleon returned to Europe and found a France he did not recognize." —RuakhTALK 00:10, 15 June 2008 (UTC)
  3. Symbol oppose vote.svg Oppose Conrad.Irwin 23:59, 14 June 2008 (UTC) was previously abstain. Changed because "plural of" is acceptable in the same way as normal nouns in many, if not all cases, (from my point of view), and I see no need to further complicate the inflection line by not using "plural" when that is clearly what it is. I support including these along with all attested forms, but do not support this vote. (offtopic ish) A better solution to this might be to not use the === Proper Noun === for anything, as as far as I can see, we are only really interested in Proper Nouns that have the common form anyway (at least I assume that's what our brand name CFI imply). Conrad.Irwin 23:59, 14 June 2008 (UTC)
    On svwikt we already removed the "proper noun" heading because different languages considering proper nouns differently, and a translation of a word of a certain language should correspond, if possible, to the same heading in another language. Some language don't even have capital letters and non-capital letters. German uses capital initials for all nouns. Monday is a proper noun in English, while in Swedish it's not. It can be seen by the use of capital letter initials or not. But how can you tell for German? Arabian? Chinese? English is a proper noun, while in Swedish language names aren't considered to be proper nouns. As the definition of proper nouns, proper nouns are spelled with capital initial (in English and in Swedish), so when talking about common noun senses of names these should actually be written with non-capital letters all way through. "Did you know Cathrine is a female name?" while "Are there any cathrines here?". Obviously this is not how it's done, but it would be smooth to completely remove the "Proper noun" heading. Then creating the pages with proper nouns wouldn't be that messy and complicated. ~ Dodde 01:22, 15 June 2008 (UTC)
    The capitalization is secondary. I'll grant that in English, a common noun like "Catherine" is fairly rare, and totally secondary to the proper noun; but there are also plenty of more normal common nouns, like "American" and "Catholic" and "Democrat", that are also capitalized (as are their corresponding adjectives, for that matter). —RuakhTALK 01:55, 15 June 2008 (UTC)
    We are interested in some real proper nouns, such as given names; however, I'd be O.K. with using a "Noun" header for all nouns, be they proper or common. I doubt most of our users actually understand the common-noun–proper-noun distinction, anyway; when I was growing up I was always taught that a proper noun was a noun we capitalized, and google:"proper adjective" suggests I wasn't alone. (We could then have a "proper noun" context tag with an appropriate link.) —RuakhTALK 01:55, 15 June 2008 (UTC)
  4. Symbol oppose vote.svg Oppose Agree with all the Oppose arguments made. The proposal adds complication without clarity. Many, but not all, of the words we have under the "Proper noun" PoS header form plurals, sometimes in ways that people need to look up. That such usage is not common is besides the point. Many of the words and uses that users need to look up are likely to be uncommon. We have numerous "rare" entries and forms throughout Wiktionary. If users would like to find the plural they need to find it at the entry for the singular. If that clashes with the definition of Proper noun, then to avoid confusion, perhaps naming words that are not always Proper nouns should not appear as Proper nouns, but as Nouns, with an indication that they can be used as Proper nouns or as elements of Proper nouns. This would not necessarily (but might) effect words that seem to be truly and exclusively Proper nouns, mostly scientific names AFAICT. DCDuring TALK 14:02, 16 June 2008 (UTC)
    I'm sorry, but I don't see how any of your points, except "The proposal adds complication without clarity", is a response to the proposal. In particular, you write that "If users would like to find the plural they need to find it at the entry for the singular", as though the proposal forbade that, which it does not. In fact, it makes explicit provision for the possibility of including common-noun-plurals in the inflection lines of plural-noun entries, specifying only that if we do so, it must be accurate, and can't just say "plural ____" as though it were an ordinary plural. (And I agree that with certain proper nouns, such as surnames, it's very much worthwhile to list them in the inflection line.) —RuakhTALK 14:31, 16 June 2008 (UTC)
    I object to two specific clauses:
    1. "that we shall not list them as simply "plural" in the inflection lines of the entries for the proper nouns whence they derive, but rather, if we include them at all, it shall be in a way that makes clear aforementioned relationship;"
      Notwithstanding your reading of this clause, a plain reading of it would seem to say that there is a chance that the plural would not be included. I see no reason for the plurals, if they might exist, to be excluded, ever.
    2. "and that we shall not otherwise include common noun senses of proper nouns, except in unusual circumstances where such inclusion is specially considered suitable."
      I don't see why such senses should be excluded if they exist, ever, until such time as we have an adequate appendix and a linking template that covers the grammatic rules by which such standard senses are derivable.
    Accordingly, I like the idea of treating at least the given name and surname words we have been putting under the Proper noun header as simple Nouns, thereby entitling them to the rights and privileges thereof, subject to any explicit limitations we might deem appropriate and providing for recognition of their use as proper nouns and as part of proper nouns.
    Furthermore, I believe that we run the risk of getting more or less than we are voting for if EP's Proper Noun Appendix leads us to alter in any way our current views of proper nouns and the relationship of the Proper noun header to the grammatical category.
    —This unsigned comment was added by DCDuring (talkcontribs) at 15:05, 16 June 2008 (UTC).
    Ah, thanks for clarifying. Your plain reading is quite right: that line does leave open the possibility of excluding plurals from inflection lines in some cases, or even in all cases. (But then, it also leaves open the possibility of requiring that plural ablative future passive participles of Latin etymons be included in the inflection lines of English verbs, and even though most editors would oppose such a move, none seems to have opposed this proposal on the grounds that it would permit it. :-P   I think it's generally necessary for proposals to leave some things open for further discussion, if only because it's impossible to predict beforehand all the implications that the proposal will have if it passes.) Your point about common-noun senses of proper nouns is well taken, and a genuine point of disagreement; personally, I think that it would be actively detrimental to give a definition of France (A certain country in Western Europe.) and then follow it up with definitions like France (A specific instance of this country, such as in time, space, universe, reality, social class, or personal perspective.), because no one would understand it who hadn't participated in this vote. But if you disagree, then I think you are quite right to oppose this proposal. :-)   —RuakhTALK 15:28, 16 June 2008 (UTC)
    By the way, until such time as EP's appendix is ready, I've started Appendix:English proper nouns, which you are free to edit (as is everyone else). It's not really in the wiki spirit to wait till EP drops the perfect document into our laps. :-) —RuakhTALK 19:23, 16 June 2008 (UTC)
  5. Symbol oppose vote.svg Oppose Lmaltier 18:33, 16 June 2008 (UTC) I think that all proper nouns should be included, provided they are words (not Agatha Christie, as this cannot be considered as a word). Their plurals should also be includable (when citations can be found). But I also think that all proper nouns, especially most famous ones, can act as common nouns without becoming common nouns: it's only a figure of speech. For me, American is a common noun, but France is never a common noun, even in a France.... In French, when proper nouns really become common nouns, they usually lose their capital, e.g. un hercule (hercule is a common noun derived from Hercule), un Américain (capitalized common noun, but common noun because of its meaning), but un Hitler (Hitler is not a common noun, but acts as a common noun in the sentence). In English, as the capital is always kept, it's much more difficult to make the difference, but it might exist too (?). Anyway, mentioning France (or Frances) as a common noun would be very misleading, and would probably shock most readers (including me). Lmaltier 18:33, 16 June 2008 (UTC)
    So to clarify, you think that we should include Englands (for example), but that we should label it a proper noun, define it as {{plural of|[[England]]}}, and listed it simply as "plural ___" in the inflection line at England#Proper noun? —RuakhTALK 19:23, 16 June 2008 (UTC)
    Yes. And, in such a case, there should be a special sense mentioned for England (and plural should be mentioned), so that the existence of a plural and its meaning are easier to understand. Lmaltier 19:48, 16 June 2008 (UTC)
  6. Symbol oppose vote.svg Oppose Widsith 11:43, 27 June 2008 (UTC) I have nothing much to add beyond what other oppose-votes have said. I do not think it is especially strange that Proper nouns have plural forms; I've never understood it to be a feature of proper nouns that they "cannot" have plurals; I think we run the risk of trying to "legislate" our way out of a normal feature of English usage. Widsith 11:43, 27 June 2008 (UTC)
  7. Symbol oppose vote.svg Oppose Connel MacKenzie 23:21, 12 July 2008 (UTC)
    Note: The above vote was accompanied by a personal attack directed at me. As an involved party, perhaps I shouldn't have been the one to remove it; but at least this approach is better than replying. —RuakhTALK 04:35, 13 July 2008 (UTC)


# Symbol abstain vote.svg Abstain Conrad.Irwin 20:28, 11 June 2008 (UTC) I would like to include these plural forms, but am not sure about the very specific small-text of the vote. Conrad.Irwin 20:28, 11 June 2008 (UTC) Changed to oppose, I've decided I'm against the small text.

  1. Symbol abstain vote.svg Abstain Gauss 20:22, 29 June 2008 (UTC) After reading and re-reading the discussions I came to believe that proper nouns shouldn't be included in WT at all.


  • Vote failed 12-7-1. Since this vote was on a topic not explicitly covered by our existing policies, and prior to this vote there was disagreement about the status quo, editors may wish to avoid creating these entries for now. —RuakhTALK 04:38, 13 July 2008 (UTC)