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separate sexes—' man-servant', maid-servant '-is partly owing to their being employed for different uses, and partly because, when the two are mixed in the same household, their apartments must be kept distinct.
• Waiter'is now common to men and women.
*Laundress’ is a feminine name, because washing has been always done by women. The great laundry establishments that have sprung up in populous places are often in charge of men; so that we ought to have ‘laundryman', as well as dairyman', * applicable to both sexes.
In a choir, there is a real and permanent distinction in the male and the female parts; yet the feminine 'songstress' has gone out of use, and has to be replaced by · female voice' or ' female singer'. A similar distinction of sex enters into ballet dancing. The French have the feminine form `danseuse'; we have no feniinine.
The old designations for many trades are originally feininine words, as webster, bakester, kempster, sewster, huckster, maltster. These trades are now common to the two sexes : indeed, some of them are male avocations alınost exclusively. The consequence is that the termination 'ster', not being applied to new cases, has lost its power. The ending ess' alone suggests the female sex; and with it there is no mistake. We could not make common a feminine in ess', if we wished it; 'laundress' would not find its way as the name of a man.
NUMBER OF NOUNS.
When one thing is mentioned, the singular noun expresses the fact; when more than one, with uncertainty as to how many, the plural is used. To signify a definite number, we need the numeral adjectives.
Our language is happy in having (with a few exceptions)
* Mätzner mentions a feminine 'launder' (Old English lavender', in Dalsgrave laundre', French lavendiere ')', by the side of which sprang up
undress ', which again gave rise to the masculine launderer'.
thrown off distinctions of gender where they are uncalled for; as the fictitious personifying of inanimate things, and the mention of the gender of classes of human beings wherein both sexes enter alike. But as regards number, we are not so fortunate. We are not at liberty to mention any subject without first ascertaining whether that subject be, one or more than one, so that we may use the suitable form of the noun; we must sa either a house' or 'houses ', although we may not know which is the fact, and although the number be altogether unimportant. As there is a common gender, so there ought to have been a common or Deutral number.
It is curious to note the devices for evading the expression of number. As the abstract noun has not a plural, we may say also that it has not a singular, for singular and plural are correlated; hence by means of it we can avoid committing ourselves to number; wishing to avoid both the singular 'a house', and the plural houses ', and yet to mention the subject, we say 'house property', which commits us to nothing. Again, if we wish to give the idea of 'fine', without saying either a fine' or 'fines', which obliges us to make a choice, we say 'fining’, which is the infinitive of the verb, and does not possess number. The verbal abstract nouns have the same effect; 'conversation' does not specify either one act or several acts.
It is a merit of language never to introduce any circumstance, however small, that is not required for the purpose in hand. Brevity, or saving of words, is not the only thing thereby gained. The reader at first supposes that every circumstance has a bearing upon the sense intended ; and he is dissatisfied with himself if he do not discover such bearing; he is consoled only by past experience, which tells that by the usages of the language expressions are often brought in to lie idle. When a man’ is mentioned, there ought, in strictness, to be a specific reason for confining the subject of discourse to one man, and for excluding two or more men; yet, in many instances, there is no contrast or pointed exclusion of plurality. What is put forward may
be equally true whether we say 'a man' or 'men’; nevertheless, we must make our choice, although in so doing, we say, by implication, something that we do not mean. On special occasions, we get out of the difficulty by a circumlocution to the effect that what we say is equally true of ' man’ and of 'men’. For this particular instance we have the convenient abstract words—mankind', 'humanity'.
'He can make a pair of shoes ', if rigidly interpreted, would mean- - he cannot make, or I am not able, or do not choose, to affirm that he can make, more than one pair. 'He can make you several pairs of shoes' is equally exclusive, by implication, of his making one pair. If the two expressions are not mutually exclusive, the strict way of stating the case is—' he can make you one pair, or more than one'. We get out of the difficulty through our own private knowledge; we are aware that we often use a plural when we do not mean to exclude the singular, and interpret plurals accordingly. The neutral form for the particular case is—' he is a shoemaker'.
It is thought necessary in law to say 'any person or persons', when the rule equally applies to one and to more than
This supposed necessity assumes that a person'excludes 'persons', and that persons' excludes ' a person' It shows the defect of our language in not having a noun form that applies equally to both numbers, in the same way as the word 'person’ applies to both genders, and supersedes the still farther alternation, men or women’; but for which, the expression would have to run--'any man or woman, or any men or women, or any man along with any woman or women, or any woman along with any man or men'.
In the laws of nature, the expression of number is irrelevant: 'a stone falls' and 'stones fall' are equally suitable and equally unsuitable. That it is one stone or many stones is no part of the case; neither singularity nor plurality is a condition of the falling; and, hence, there should be a way of stating the fact that omits both.
The plural is not always an idle form. When we say
to ascend Mont Blanc, you must have guides', we both say and mean that a guide will not do. In the same way, if we had said a guide, we should have been supposed to imply that one guide is enough. In these circumstances, the variation of numbers is significant; they mean what they say. A common number would not convey the sense without an additional qualifying word, 'one' or 'several', as the case might be. As with our class nouns we must
either a stone' or stones', and do not assign any place or purpose to the naked noun 'stone', it might seem strange that this form has never been adopted as the neutral or common number of the noun. Some approach to the usage is made in the use of the term 'man'-'man is mortal', which fully and equally applies to men singly or in numbers. This, however, is accounted a sort of licence or figure; the lawyers would not be satisfied to put 'man' instead of 'any person or persons'. Could we express the law of gravity-stone fall’, we should also say, in a general prohibition, 'person shall not'.
If we had no plural inflection, and no usage to mark the singular (as by the article, a person), a noun standing without any qualification would mean that number is not considered; that one and more than one are equally understood. In case of stating one to the exclusion of a greater number, or of stating a number to the exclusion of one, we should need a qualifying adjective: one, ten, some, many, most, all. We should then have the advantage of being definite when we wished it; yet we should not be compelled to be definite, since we have adjectives that have a very wide and vague scope; for example, ‘some', certain', which commit us to very little.
It is always instructive to look at the forms of language as they are used in science; we shall there see them in their utmost precision; although, perhaps, they may be wanting in rhetorical energy. Now, in science, the plural noun is employed in all universal statements, and in all statements short of universal but exceeding ove: all bodies gravi
tate', 'all birds are egg-laying', 'some metals do not corrode'. There is this peculiarity, however, that, in science, the plural always includes the singular: 'the cross of St. Paul's gravitates', 'there is one metal that does not corrode.
Plurality in the scientific form, -and not in that only, but in the looser ways of speaking (with some important exceptions)—means that each individual may be taken separately, the assertion being true of each. Stones fall' meanstake any stone you please, and, on the withdrawal of the support, it will fall. In fact, the plural is a short way of saying what it would want a great many statements to overtake : 'stars shine by their own light' is a condensation of hundreds of thousands of declarations, with each star in the heavens as subject, and ‘shines by its own light' as predicate. The plural number of the verb lends itself to the same meaning.
This brings us, by contrast, to the Collective Noun, where there is plurality, and also unity. The collective noun is a singular noun, but means a group or aggregate organised for some common action. Happily, we are provided with names for the most important collective meanings: family, race, community, society, state, sect, herd, flock, group, cattle, people, army, infantry, crockery, crowd, mob, crew, crop, property, congregation, garrison, and so on. But, occasionally, from want of a collective noun, we use a plural, which, while indicating that there are several things implied (more than one at least) indicates also that these things do not act separately and independently, although the manner of their acting may be the same. Thus, the plurals-troops, battalions, masses, legions, arms, grounds, premises, cards, damages, bowels, intestines, brains, authorities, guards, fencibles, musketry, wages, fittings-express that there are more than one of the things named; but, in addition to this, we understand by the names that they are combined and work together, and not by separate or independent action.
The effect of collectiveness is seen in many other plurals,