Weird plurals with titles

rogersgeorge on January 24th, 2014

Most of the time in English (unlike many other languages) you put adjectives ahead of the nouns they modify. However, there’s a short list of notable exceptions. We tend to treat them as single words, but the order shows up when we make them plural. Everybody knows about these—

  • attorney general—attorneys general
  • court marshal—courts marshal
  • passer by—passers by
  • Knight Templar—Knights Templar not to mention knight errant and knights errant.

But what about this? Mr Smith. What’s the plural? (And don’t say it’s always singular—we could be referring to a couple brothers, for example. In fact, while you’re thinking about how to pluralize Mr., here’s a quote from a blog I read called Your Wild Life (January 4, 2013, to be exact). The blog is about things like insects and bacteria in your home. It’s sponsored  by several educational institutions.

 Dan Fergus had two encouraging math teachers in middle school, both named Mr. Conner. The Mr. Conners were enthusiastic brothers excited about teaching.

Doesn’t read quite right, does it? The correct plural is “the Misters Conner.” If you want to go with an abbreviation, it’s ” the Messrs Conner.” What about Mrs.? Plural is Mesdames. Yup, for some reason, we revert to French here.

So the rule with names is: the title is the part that gets pluralized: Professor, Captain, Justice, Private, Secretary.

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