H.L. Mencken > The American Language > Chapter 9. The Common Speech > 6. The Noun
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H.L. Mencken (1880–1956).  The American Language.  1921.
 
6. The Noun
 
The only inflections of the noun remaining in English are those for number and for the genitive, and so it is in these two regions that the few variations to be noted in vulgar American occur. The rule that, in forming the plurals of compound nouns or noun-phrases, the -s shall be attached to the principal noun is commonly disregarded, and it goes at the end. Thus, “I have two sons-in-law” is never heard among the plain people; one always hears “I have two son-in-laws.” So with the genitive. I once overheard this: “that umbrella is the young lady I go with’s.” Often a false singular is formed from a singular ending in s, the latter being mistaken for a plural. Chinee, Portugee and Japanee are familiar; I have also noted trapee, specie, 93 tactic and summon (from trapeze, species, tactics and summons). 94 Paradoxically, the word incidence is commonly misused for incident, as in “he told an incidence.” Here incidence (or incident) seems to be regarded as a synonym, not for happening, but for story. I have never heard “he told of an incidence.” The of is always omitted. The general disregard of number often shows itself when the noun is used as object. I have already quoted Lardner’s “some of the men has brung their wife along”; in a popular magazine I lately encountered “those book ethnologists… can’t see what is before their nose.” Many similar examples might be brought forward.   1
Note 93.  This occasionally gets into print, along with tactic. See South American Travels, by Henry Stephens; New York, 1915, p. 114. [back]
Note 94.  It is possible that hoakum, the verb of which is to hoak, is a similar backformation from hoax. [back]

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