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referendums

June 28, 2016

I don’t know if other people are tired of talking about the EU referendum yet. I am beginning to feel I’ve had enough, having gorged myself on every news story I could find about it for the last few days. My view now is that those of us who didn’t get what we wanted (which includes me) must suck it up, stop whingeing and make the best of it. Anyway, never fear, this post isn’t about what ought to have happened in the referendum. It’s about what the plural of referendum ought to be. Some say referenda – because referendum is a word of Latin origin and the plural of nouns ending in -um in Latin is -a. That’s why we say agenda rather than agendums. (I can remember at school chanting the different cases of the Second Declension noun Bellum (meaning war): Bellum bellum bellum, belli belli bello, bella bella bella, bellorum bellis bellis. That feels like a memory from another world now – like something out of a Molesworth book).

Anyway, despite what the Latinists say, I don’t think the plural of referendum should be referenda. It sounds twatty and self-conscious to me. After all referendum is now an English word whatever its origins. I think that we should just say referendums. Not that I really want to talk about them any more.

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One Comment
  1. Before he was in the running for PM, David Cameron made reference a few times to “stadia”. Later, as PM, this became “stadiums”, presumably to make him sound like a man of the people.

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