Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Vocabulammary: "-exes" Don't Exist

What do all of these words have in common?:
  • Indexes
  • Dominatrixes
  • Appendixes
If you answered, "The singular forms all end in x," you're half-right.

None of these words exist. That's right: not one of the words in the list above is a real word because every, last one of them is the improper plural form!

Add this to my long list of grammatical pet-peeves. The idea for this post came to me yesterday when I was updating my LibraryThing profile and came across a discussion posted by - of all people! - a librarian who said, "I know nobody uses indexes anymore..."

AAAARRGGH! Tell me where she librarianates so I never go there!

The plural of all these words requires you to drop the x and replace it with the -ces combination. So the correct forms are:
  • Indeces
  • Dominatrices
  • Appendices
Of course, I wouldn't argue the point with any dominatrices. You may be able to think of some other examples, and if you do, I would love to hear them because I wracked my brain for the better part of the day and couldn't think of anymore - comment with your additions!

Some exceptions prove this rule and the ones I could think of have largely to do with construction, though I'm not sure that matters (annexes, complexes, apexes). This goes hand-in-hand with certain similar rules, such as replacing the i with an e when it precedes an s at the end of a word (neuroses, psychoses, diagnoses, theses) and replacing the s with an i in certain words (hippopotami, peni).

And while this may seem pedantic, I prefer to see it as scholastic. Besides, the proper form may look "weird" to some readers, but it really turns us smartypantses on!

© C Harris Lynn, 2008

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