Favorite

Words: Is The Heights singular? 

"The Heights [a Little Rock neighborhood] were white."

A reader asks "Why not 'The Heights was white'? It is singular, or is it?"

I'm sure there are people who could answer that question yes or no with confidence, and perhaps even a smaller group whose confidence would be justified. I'm not among those people. Questions such as this make me feel like the umpire who, faced with a difficult ball-or-strike decision, declared the pitch too close to call.

Success With Words, a usage manual I rely heavily on, says "The conventions of English usage relating to grammatical number — the use of singular and plural forms — are more complex and flexible than might be expected. Rather than attempt to analyze the underlying rules in all their permutations, we shall cite some typical examples of correct, debatable, and wrong or awkward choices ..."

True to its word, SSW proceeds to give us a couple of pages worth of close calls, such as "An average of 400 people has participated in the weekend searches ... " Here, the manual says "Probably the writer considered 'have' but edited it to 'has'; this is strictly correct but 'have' is more natural and equally correct."

"More natural" is what I mean when I refer to my "sounds right" rule, which I fall back on often. "Sgt. John Law with the Washington County sheriff's office said he and other deputies were searching county roads Thursday for anyone who may have been stranded in a vehicle, much like the state police was doing along highways." That "was" may be strictly correct, but when I read "state police," I see a bunch of troopers. I can no more say "The state police was doing" than "The Razorbacks is leading."

And so, to return to the original question, to me "The Heights were white." And still is.

n Harold Freeman writes: "A slightly drunk person is said to be 'tight'. Why? Wouldn't a more appropriate word be 'loose'?"

Easier questions, please.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Comments (2)

Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

More by Doug Smith

  • The L word and the C word

    I was excited to see the newspaper headline "Bielema liberal." "After all those neo-Nazis, we've finally got a coach who thinks right," I told friends. "I wonder if he belongs to the ADA."
    • May 1, 2014
  • Who's exasperated?

    Jim Newell was gripped by exasperation himself after reading this item in the business section. "Exacerbated" is the word the writer wanted, he sagely suggests.
    • Apr 24, 2014
  • We will run no race before it's ripe

    "What year would Oaklawn recognize as its 100th anniversary? After all, Oaklawn's advertising material is ripe with 'Since 1904,' but it's widely reported the first race wasn't run until 1905."
    • Apr 17, 2014
  • More »

Most Shared

  • In the margins

    A rediscovered violin concerto brings an oft-forgotten composer into the limelight.
  • Donald Trump is historically unpopular — and not necessarily where you think

    My colleagues John Ray and Jesse Bacon and I estimate, in the first analysis of its kind for the 2018 election season, that the president's waning popularity isn't limited to coastal cities and states. The erosion of his electoral coalition has spread to The Natural State, extending far beyond the college towns and urban centers that voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. From El Dorado to Sherwood, Fayetteville to Hot Springs, the president's approval rating is waning.
  • Arkansans join House vote to gut Americans with Disabilities Act

    Despite fierce protests from disabled people, the U.S. House voted today, mostly on party lines, to make it harder to sue businesses for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. Of course Arkansas congressmen were on the wrong side.

Latest in Words

  • The L word and the C word

    I was excited to see the newspaper headline "Bielema liberal." "After all those neo-Nazis, we've finally got a coach who thinks right," I told friends. "I wonder if he belongs to the ADA."
    • May 1, 2014
  • Who's exasperated?

    Jim Newell was gripped by exasperation himself after reading this item in the business section. "Exacerbated" is the word the writer wanted, he sagely suggests.
    • Apr 24, 2014
  • We will run no race before it's ripe

    "What year would Oaklawn recognize as its 100th anniversary? After all, Oaklawn's advertising material is ripe with 'Since 1904,' but it's widely reported the first race wasn't run until 1905."
    • Apr 17, 2014
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

February

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28  

Most Viewed

  • Donald Trump is historically unpopular — and not necessarily where you think

    My colleagues John Ray and Jesse Bacon and I estimate, in the first analysis of its kind for the 2018 election season, that the president's waning popularity isn't limited to coastal cities and states. The erosion of his electoral coalition has spread to The Natural State, extending far beyond the college towns and urban centers that voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. From El Dorado to Sherwood, Fayetteville to Hot Springs, the president's approval rating is waning.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Out of control

    • And Olphart - hey, That is a witty reply - good for you!

    • on February 17, 2018
  • Re: Out of control

    • Oh for god's sake - read the play - just read the play before going…

    • on February 16, 2018
  • Re: Out of control

    • Aloysius, Not even a large man with a bodyguard detail acting in a way intended…

    • on February 16, 2018
 

© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation