Sunday, January 27, 2008

On the plural of "referendum"

I've just seen Gordon Brown giving an interview on the Politics Show and when talking about not the people have their say on the EU Constitution"Treaty" he said "referendums" and then rapidly "or I should say 'referenda'".

Why is this hyperforeignism pluralisation perpetuated? Not only is it inconsistent - we don't use the Inuit pluralisation for "anorak" for a start - but it's also not necessary. The most correct plural form is "referendums" and this is reflected in legislation - see the Referendums (Scotland and Wales) Act 1997 and Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. This is becoming one of those issues on which pedants are making a fuss in favour of the wrong form!

(P.S. My blog spellcheck still doesn't recognise "referenda" but has no problem with "referendums".)

4 comments:

David Boothroyd said...

'Referendums' is better because the latin original is a gerund, and gerunds do not have plurals. 'Referenda' makes sense if different issues are referred to the electorate (for instance 'the Scottish Parliament referenda of September 1997' appears to be correct because two issues were decided).

Most dictionaries report usage of both forms, though.

Anonymous said...

In any case, avoid referendumbs. See www.FreeEurope.info...

Action and Adventure said...

I think it does not matter. Both are acceptable in my book.

Ed said...

"This is becoming one of those issues on which pedants are making a fuss in favour of the wrong form!"

...speaking of which...

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