The Phenomena of the Vortices and Cacti

twisted-juniperA friend and I were recently discussing what our possibilities for recreation are for a trip to Sedona, Arizona, this summer. When I said “vortexes,” her response was “shouldn’t it be vortices?” I had never heard that word, but told her I would investigate and use it as a blog topic. So here we are.

According to the Gregg Reference Manual nouns of a foreign origin retain their foreign plurals while some now have English plurals and others have two plurals—both foreign and English. How confusing is that? When there are two plural forms, one form may be preferred to the other and you are instructed to check your dictionary to be sure of the correct plural form.

I will not quote the entire section from Gregg, but it is interesting indeed. It is in the Tribute (11th) edition starting on page 204. Here are select entries:

WORDS ENDING IN US (the asterisk indicates the preferred form)
Singular English Plural Foreign Plural
cactus cactuses cacti*
focus focuses* foci
nucleus nucleuses nuclei*
stylus styluses styli*
thesaurus thesauruses thesauri*
Singular English Plural Foreign Plural
agenda agendas
dogma dogmas* dogmata
formula formulas* formulae
vertebra vertebras vertebrae*
Singular English Plural Foreign Plural
addendum addenda
auditorium auditoriums* auditoria
consortium consortiums* consortia
curriculum vitae curricula vitae
erratum errata
maximum maximums* maxima
memorandum memorandums* memoranda
stadium stadiums* stadia
ultimatum ultimatums* ultimate
Singular English Plural Foreign Plural
crescendo crescendos* crescendo
tempo tempos tempi (in music)
Singular English Plural Foreign Plural
criterion criterions criteria*
phenomenon phenomenons phenomena*
Singular English Plural Foreign Plural
appendix appendixes* appendices
crux cruxes* cruces
index indexes (of books) indices (math symbols)
matrix matrixes matrices*
vortex vortexes vortices*
Singular English Plural Foreign Plural
analysis analyses
crisis crises
ellipsis ellipses
parenthesis parentheses
synopsis synopses
Singular English Plural Foreign Plural
Adieu adieus* adieux
Bureau bureaus* bureaux
Plateau plateaus* plateaux
Singular English Plural Foreign Plural
chaise longue chaise longues* chaises longues
hors d’oeuvre hors d’ouevres* hors d’oeuvre
maître d’ maître d’s

So did you learn anything from this taste of English and foreign pluralization of foreign nouns? I sure did! I was wrong and will forevermore refer to Sedona’s vortices correctly. Who knew?


Using Foreign Words in Legal Writing Is Not Necessarily Your Pièce De Résistance

A good friend asked if I would write on the use of foreign words/languages in English writing, particularly whether we should include the foreign characters, accent marks, etc. in our legal writings.

The basic answer is sometimes.

If a foreign word has become a part of the English language, like résumé, it does not need to be italicized. NOTE: I am using italics here just to emphasize the words I am talking about. Some words and phrases will retain the diacritical marks, such as the accent marks in résumé, vis-á-vis, and the circumflex in paper-mâche, but the words are not italicized.

According to The Bluebook A Uniform System of Citation, foreign words and phrases that are used often in legal writing and are familiar to the legal community are not italicized, but foreign words and phrases that are very long, obsolete, or uncommon Latin, should be italicized. For instance, do italicize:

  • Ignorantia legis neminem excusat (“ignorance of the law does not excuse”)

But not:

  • quid pro quo

Note, however, that id. is always italicized (including the period), but e.g. is only italicized when it is used as a signal as in See, e.g., Smith v. Brown. In re and ex rel. and other such procedural phrases are always italicized.

Avoid using Latin or other foreign words and phrases where it is not necessary and where an English word or phrase will work just as well and that will avoid the issue altogether, but when you do use them, if it is well known to the legal community or well integrated into the English language, retain its diacritical marks, but do not italicize.