You know there is a wold of tics, thoughts, hang-ups, hang-ons that really mean nothing, but somehow manage to keep me up at night and interfere with my sorely needed beauty sleep. George Carlin called them the "thoughts that kept me out the better schools." Strictly speaking, words like water, bread, fruit, cheese, don't have plurals. We might ask for a "glass of water," a "slice of cheese" or something like that, but if we are going to be grammar slaves, then we really shouldn't pluralize many of the words that we do. That said, it's convenient and more and more acceptable to do so these days to use words like "breads" and "cheeses" or whatever. On the other hand, it doesn't seem particularly useful or helpful to use words like "shrimps" or "mooses" in common language. I would also expect careful language from specialists. The other night, safely locked away from active and interesting people and in front of the television in a friend's living room, I was watching some History Channel type documentary on a series Red Sea shark attacks. A marine biologist speculated that people had been feeding the "fishes" that sharks normally preyed upon, and for that reason, the sharks had been closer to people and in some cases were used to being fed themselves by reckless divers. What rankled me was that the specialist repeatedly (at least in my head) used the word "fishes." Women, children, and ESL students, please know that there are no "mooses," "deers," "shrimps," and there are sure as hell no "fishes!"
Whatever, it is all context, and language is a vehicle, not a law, and this is boring me already. Certain subjects don't seem to bore human beings if the number of words for them is any indication of interest or obsession though: 1
sex/ sex acts (any verb can used to imply sex)
2 masturbation-some of the idioms and euphemisms are positively genius-I like anything that references bishops.
3 genitalia- human male genitalia is the source of all that is just, noble, strong, rational, and productive in this world. References to female genitalia are uncouth and vulgar just like the portal itself.
4 Feces/piss/ disposal of said things and related products. I'm not going to talk about this, but we're all familiar with the idiots who like to update on their last elimination with a euphemism that makes our skin crawl more than if they had just been plainspoken.
5 intoxication- Seriously the verbs, idioms for being intoxicated are richly variegated and are even particular to the substance. I love the idiom for opiate use, "chasing the dragon."
7 Fighting- I'm always impressed with adults that discuss their fighting prowess at length-classy!
Think about the alternative ways of describing these activities, 1-7, that you know of. Then ask yourself if you know that names of your great grandparents, neighbors, the capitals of African nations. Hell, I don't even know what's happened to half of my family, am not up on the politics of Togo, and I'm glad not to know the neighbors too well. In some ways, we aren't but a blink in eternity ahead of the knuckle draggers, feces flingers, savage tribes that were our predecessors. Hell, we probably invented 50 new words to describe gorging ourselves on woolly mammoth carcass and then having orgies afterwards.