Monday, October 29, 2007

Geekdom + Dorkitude = ?

So I'm catching up on the most recent Layer Tennis, and I notice something. We are invited to provide our own commentary to the match:

Wanna Play?

The Layer Tennis Forums are open[.]

I actually think this Layer Tennis thing is pretty cool, but here's where the geekitude comes in.

When did the plural of "forum" become "forums?"

Back in law school, I did a lot of work on the First Amendment, specifically freedom of speech. One of the things that has to be decided at least once every generation is whether something qualifies as "a public forum"--is it a place where people congregate? Is it a place that is perceived as a public area? The big examples are a private shopping mall and a wholly owned company town--they look like the traditional "city squares" of olden days, but they are private property. Do property rights mean that First Amendment rights are not applicable?

What did not have to be decided was the proper plural of forum. It is "fora." When speaking of more than one public forum, one says "public fora." This is Latin, which may be a dead language, but lawyers still use its remains. This is how Latin is properly pluralized.

Enter the internet. And boy does it become the biggest of all public fora to date. Conversational exchanges on the internet increasingly happen in specific areas designated "the forum" which is a wonderful thing. The plural, however, has become "forums."

Which is kind of too bad, because it means it will always sound wrong to me, and so I'm stuck being the Grammar Schoolmarm from Hell

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