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Parts of speech

Posted by R. Berg on January 03, 2001

In Reply to: Plurals posted by marcus on December 30, 2000

: : : : : what is the plural of Stick-in-the-Mud ?

: : : : : Is it Sticks -in-the-Mud ?
: : : : : Or Stick-in-the-Muds ?

: : : : Oh no. You mean there's more than one of them?
: : : : Well, I'm inclined to say "what a bunch of stick-in-the-muds" because a) it sounds better, and b) the hyphens pulling the words all together to make it into a collective lump. Unlike, for example, Attornies General

: : : It's sisters-in-law. So I would think it is sticks-in-the-mud. But that's just an opinion.

: : In this case I think that the derivation of the phrase may decide it. Is 'stick' of the wooden variety, or of the getting stuck variety?

: : Well, if it sticks in the mud it could get stuck a lot. A bunch of sticks in the mud could cause a flat tire too. Those stick in the muds that won't jump from helocopters could be a bunch of sticks in the mud if they do.

I think it has to be "stick-in-the-muds" because "stick" functions as a verb here, not a noun. The noun is "mud." (But I'd prefer "Johnny-come-latelys" to "Johnnys-come-lately," and "lately" isn't a noun. Perhaps another difference is that "stick..." is slang and "sister-in-law" is standard, and so we don't expect the plural of the former to sound correct.) Does it need to be pluralized? Why not say "old fogies" or something else?