Thursday, September 11, 2008

Rant: about "troops"

Sometimes it's the language nerd in me. I try not to complain about language. Words are fluid, complex, and they frequently shift meaning and usage.


My complaint today is an easy one. It's a question of plurals.

A "troop" is a body of soldiers. ("Body" in a corporate sense, not like the flesh and blood body).

"Troops" are several "bodies of soldiers."

But almost no one uses this correctly. We say (as did Gov. Palin in her acceptance speech) that someone is "one of those troops."

One may be a member of a troop. No individual can be "one of those troops."

(Where did the current usage come from? I don't know. I'm suspecting 2 things. First, saying someone is "one of those troops" avoids our saying "one of those soldiers," because "troop" is thought to have a softer, more genteel sound than soldier. Likewise, troop is used as a generic term for military individuals, so we avoid having to differentiate between soldiers, marines, seamen, whatever).

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