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According to William Safire, what is the plural of the phrase Poet Laureate?

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Answer: Poets Laureate

According to Safire: "The best way to make a compound noun plural is to add the s to the most important part" - i.e. the noun part. For example, attorneys general and courts martial.


Feedback to feedback on pluralizing compunds with non-nouns: an example might be the ready-mades of Marcel Duchamps in referring to his "Fountain" (urinal) and other Dadaist sculptural objects. Would one ever add the s to other than the end of the compound?
slundgren at &

Here's an example where Safire's narrowly circumscribed rule doesn't quite work: When I was growing up (way before the World Wrestling Federation), we used to watch 10-man, over-the-top-rope battle-royals. Now, despite battle being the noun there, I defy you to tell me that battles-royal is the correct plural form. It seems that when you're talking about correctness, the social register has to be a consideration: Battles royal is much too fastidious for this register of English.
jacko at &

Laureate is an adjective whereas Poet is a noun. The simplest rule is: pluralise the noun.
owen * at &*

From a prescriptivist's point of view, Safire is right, but from a descriptivists' viewpoint..well, I don't know. The fact that adjectives so rarely follow the nouns they modify in English makes it feel more "psychologically" correct to place the "s" at the end of these noun phrases (i.e. court martials).

In fact, when we use these adjectives I suspect most of us aren't very conscious of the fact that they are adjectives at all. On the other hand, phrases like mothers-in-law feel completely natural because of the normal syntactical order.
jacko& at &&

Since we don't have more than one, when if ever would we use the term in the plural? Oh, I guess if we said that there have been X number of poets laureate in America.
thelmaz at hal

True, except as it relates to titles of books. For instance the title Book of Mormon should not be changed to "Books of Mormon" or "Book of Mormons" when speaking about multiple copies. It should be stated, "Copies of the 'Book of Mormon'."
sgish00 at &

Generally, in a compound of a noun and an adjective, you pluralize the noun. Are there any cases of a compound noun composed of one or more non-nouns?

[Mootguy: Don't know. Anybody else know?]
Stevan_White at &

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