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How to Make Weird Nouns Plural

Some simple rules will keep you from being confounded when you’re trying to figure out how to make proper nouns such as “iPhone 5,” “iPad 4S,” and “Blackberry” plural.

By
Mignon Fogarty,
June 27, 2013
Episode #373

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How to Make Weird Nouns Plural

A few years ago, a Twitter user name Nick Piesco asked me an interesting question about making product names plural. He wanted to know how to make the name “iPad 2” plural.

I believe Nick was curious because the name ends in a number. It’s not terribly uncommon for a product name to end in a number--we have the Boeing 737, Heinz 57 (officially Heinz 57 Sauce), the Commodore 64, Motel 6, Pepsi One, and so on—but it does make you stop and think when you have to make them plural.

It turns out there’s an official answer and a different, more realistic answer.

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The Company Line: iPad 2 Tablets

First, let’s talk about the official answer. Product names are always tricky because they are usually trademarked, and companies don’t like you to use trademarked words generically. Making them plural counts as using them generically. The Apple page Guidelines for Using Trademarks and Copyrights gives this example:

Rules for Proper Use of Apple Trademarks

  1. Trademarks are adjectives used to modify nouns; the noun is the generic name of a product or service.

  2. As adjectives, trademarks may not be used in the plural or possessive form.

Correct: I bought two Macintosh computers.

Not Correct: I bought two Macintoshes.

In other words, Apple wants you to say you have “two iPad 2 tablets.” 

But we all know that’s not realistic in casual writing and speech. I had addressed plurals of product names before (the recognized plural of “BlackBerry” is “BlackBerrys,” even though RIM wants you to call them “two BlackBerry smartphones”), but I’d never faced a question about a product name that ends with a version number.

Common Use: iPad 2s

Logically, I don’t think adding a number to the name makes a difference in the way you’d handle it. The number is part of the official name, so if we’d write that we have two Blackberrys and two iPads, then we should write that we have two iPad 2s.

Next: What About Making "iPhone 4S" Plural?

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