My Bellows Is Fine

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Thinking caps on: Is the noun "bellows" singular or plural? Should it be, "My bellows ["is" or "are"] fine and dandy"??? -jeff buckels (albuquerque nm)

-- Jeff Buckels (jeffbuck@swcp.com), June 24, 2001

Answers

Hi Jeff,

I'll leave the formal definition to the linguistics experts, but I vote for:

My bellows ARE fine.

Bellows seems to be one of those confusing nouns, like pants, that end in an "s" and use plural verb forms (my pants ARE blue - not my pants is blue) even though they refer to a single item.

Of course, it gets even more confusing. We do call them a PAIR of pants after all. Why, I don't know - looks like a single article of clothing to me. My shirt has two sleeves, but I don't refer to it as PAIR of shirts. And I use the singular verb when talking about my shirt (my shirt IS blue). Now socks - they make sense. I buy them, wear them and refer to them (my socks ARE blue) two at a time - they truly are a PAIR of socks.

I guess as long as your bellows is/are fine, that's all that really matters no matter how you say it.

Kerry

-- Kerry Thalmann (largeformat@thalmann.com), June 24, 2001.


Is your scissors fine too? I'd vote for "are."

-- Kevin Crisp (KRCrisp@aol.com), June 24, 2001.

Is lens singular or plural? You can have a twin lens reflex, but can you have a single len reflex? Why do you drive on a parkway and park in a driveway? Things like that just baffle me.

-- Ken Burns (kenburns@twave.net), June 24, 2001.

While we're on the subject, how come we say 'he', 'his' and 'him' but not 'she', 'shis' and 'shim'? Cheers, DJ.

-- N Dhananjay (ndhanu@umich.edu), June 24, 2001.

I think I may have an answer here. I'm looking at one of the refernce books I have left over from my last journalism class, When Words Collide, A Media Writer's Gude to Grammar and Style, and on page is the following bit of text...

Collective Nouns Their singular fomrs denote a group of people or things- for example, jury, herd, athletics and politics. They can be troublesome for subject-verb agreement. If the noun is considered as a whole, the verb and associated pronouns are singular: The jury has returned its verdict. If that unit is broken up or considered individually, the plural verb is required: The herd of cattle have scattered because of the dust storm.

Now then, I personally feel that the word bellows falls into the former category, and therefore would call for the use of singular verb forms and pronouns. This especially makes sense if you consider the term set of bellows, which is generally interchangable with bellows and which would also necessitate singular verb forms and pronouns.

Those are my thoughts on the matter, anyway...

-- David Munson (orthoptera@juno.com), June 24, 2001.



Hmmm.....looking at the title I do believe I misspelled a word. I'm not quite sure what a "gude" is....

-- David Munson (orthoptera@juno.com), June 24, 2001.

Him bellers am fine, also else ils dandy.

-- david o'connor (dco@definitive-security.com), June 24, 2001.

It is my understanding that "bellows" is plural. A "bellow" is a flexible connector with a pair of folds. If you have more than a pair, then you have plural pairs - therefore many "bellows".

I vote for "bellows ARE..."

-- Matt O. (mojo@moscow.com), June 24, 2001.


I finally looked it up in the dictionary. It lists bellows as a noun and can be used singular or plural. That's odd. It gives "bellow" as a seperate listing. Bellows has its own listing. That's all the bellowing I am going to do on this subject, unless someone were to bellow about the condition of my bellows, which is/are o.k. on all but one of my cameras which have bellows.

regards,

-- Doug Paramore (dougmary@alaweb.com), June 24, 2001.


This singular definition of bellows is troublesome. It looks like it is improper to refer to a "bag bellows," which should be called just a "bag" (no folds). And if you have one of these and a regular bellows, are they bellowses?

-- Chris Patti (cmpatti@aol.com), June 24, 2001.


All the elucidation has been very aluminating. Pat

-- pat krentz (patwandakrentz@aol.com), June 25, 2001.

Being of foreign mother tongue, no wonder I agonized over this issue!

-- Paul Schilliger (pschilliger@smile.ch), June 25, 2001.

...And "fish" is plural if you're referring to a number of them of unspecified species, but you use "fishes" to refer to multiple species. Or something like that.

And "cow" can either refer to the species, or refer only to the female of the species "cattle." Interestingly, there is no singular form of "cattle."

-- John H. Henderson (jhende03@harris.com), June 25, 2001.


Hey, at least you know that it's a bellows. There's a guy who often posts on ebay (I think he buys and resells restored view cameras) who CONSISTENTLY calls them "billows". I find this quite funny. Yeah, I know, I'm easily amused.

-- Linas Kudzma (lkudzma@compuserve.com), June 25, 2001.

Of Cows and Bellows -- While the word "cow" is the term for the female of the bovine species (as well as a few others), you would get a few raised eyebrows, even here in Montana, if you exclaimed to a rancher, "My, you sure have a lot of bovines in your field!" Now bellows is another matter, although bovines are known to bellow. Using my Montana guide to linguistics, I suggest using the term "stretchy thingamajiggy" when referring to this camera part in order to avoid confusion with loud cows. Matt.

-- Matt Long (long@ycsi.net), June 25, 2001.


Matt: If you have more than one, would it be "stretchy thingamajiggys" or "stretchy thingamajiggies"? I never can keep it straight. Thanks for the research in your Montana Linguistics.

Regards,

-- Doug Paramore (dougmary@alaweb.com), June 25, 2001.


"Stretchy thingamajiggy" if applied to male anatomy would be singular. Pat

-- pat krentz (patwandakrentz@aol.com), June 25, 2001.

Pat, you are too funny!

-- Paul Schilliger (pschilliger@smile.ch), June 25, 2001.

For those of you that are confused as to why pants are named as such, have a look at the "Rolling Stone" cover that features Britney Spears...

-- Steve Clark (agno3@eesc.com), June 25, 2001.

One of my favorite cover shots to be sure...

-- David Munson (orthoptera@juno.com), June 25, 2001.

Well folks, I am truly humbled at your mastery of the English language. Who was it said we are a nation divided by a common language?

Anyway, in Yorkshire bulls bellow and cows low! 'Bovine' is half of a nasty disease that badgers are reputed to spread and cattle used to be seen only on weekend matinees such as 'Rawhide'.

As for my own bellows - well they is fine, certainly at 105mm, but I am replacing them anyway to prevent possible embarrasment when my super new ancient long lens arrives.

DONNA@leefilters.com quotes 80 - ($120 and dropping)inclusive, to replace my 'Baby' Linhof 6x9 leather bellows with synthetic. This is far less than I had expected and I just wanted you all to share that fact!

-- Clive Kenyon (clivekenyon@hotmail.com), June 27, 2001.


According to Webster's Tenth Collegiate Dictionary, 'bellows' is a plural noun, but is singular or plural in construction. Before you "vote for 'are,'" gentlemen, think how that sounds.

Person A: "I think the bellows on my camera has a light leak." Person B: "I think the bellows on my camera have a light leak."

Personally, I think person B sounds silly. Yes, we know that the instrument in question is, in fact, a series of folds, and thus constitutes a plural thing. But in common parlance, we do not refer to the individual pieces, but rather to the collectivity - the bellows - that they form.

Yes, "Fish" and "Deer" are words that are both singular and plural, but they are conceptually different. We have just cause to refer to an individual fish - we may need to point out the one in the school that has red fins while others have blue, for example - or an individual deer, but we have no reason to refer to only one of the folds in a bellows, which is why it is an "it," not a "they." If we needed to point out the defect in one spot, we would refer to, say, the 6th fold OF the bellows as a whole, we wouldn't call it "the 6th bellow."

One last note: the letter 's' does not necessary denote plurality. When the court orders you to appear, you receive a summons, not a summon.

-- Joshua Slocum (jayslc@yahoo.com), June 27, 2001.


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