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binocular vs. pair of binoculars

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#26 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 23 January 2019 - 08:10 AM

"I enjoy using my bicycles" not acceptable as a singular

 

Like telescopes and binoculars, the correct form is always , "l like my bicycles. "

 

2052270-jon's garage Oct 2007.jpg
 
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#27 Grimnir

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Posted 23 January 2019 - 09:04 AM

Graham, the term 'binoculars' can also refer to a single item however?

 

Singular - bicycle, binocular, binoculars?

 

Plural - bicycles, binoculars

 

"I enjoy using my binoculars" seems acceptable as a singular

 

"I enjoy using my bicycles" not acceptable as a singular

 

Binoculars seems to be an accepted term for the 1 item, as well as plural. I'm way out of my depth here but I wonder if that difference is why it *may* be acceptable to refer to a 'pair of binoculars' ?

 

In common parlance, yes, but we would never misuse it thus at the Society for Grammatical Pedants.

 

Graham


 

#28 terraclarke

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Posted 23 January 2019 - 02:07 PM

Well lookie here! We’ve waded through this morass more than once:

https://www.cloudyni...-of-binoculars/
 

#29 genelew

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Posted 23 January 2019 - 04:41 PM

Terraclarke, thanks for the link! I guess there have been a lot of cloudy nights in the past as well. We seem to have uncovered a covey (or murder) of linguists in our midst. We may be able to carry this on until spring.

Gene


 

#30 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 23 January 2019 - 05:19 PM

Well lookie here! We’ve waded through this morass more than once:

https://www.cloudyni...-of-binoculars/

 

Here's a 2009 thread..

 

https://www.cloudyni...h/#entry3181970

 

Jon


 

#31 Miranda2525

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Posted 23 January 2019 - 05:31 PM

Pretty sure I saw this on an episode of "hoarders" LOL

Attached Thumbnails

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#32 Tony Flanders

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Posted 23 January 2019 - 05:37 PM

For what it's worth, the Sky & Telescope style guide used to explicitly prohibit the phrase "pair of binoculars." In 2008, when I was in charge of the Style Guide, the editors had a lengthy discussion of the subject and agreed to allow the use of the phrase, and explicitly outlaw the usage "I own a binocular." Here's how I phrased the new rule:

 

Never use “binocular” in the single unless as an adjective; either “pair of binoculars” when you need to specify a particular unit or (better) “binoculars” when it’s OK to leave it vague whether it’s singular or plural.

 

This is more in concordance with common and traditional usage. For what it's worth, the word "binoculars" originated as a contraction of the full phrase "binocular glasses." So it's natural to mimic the use of the words "glasses" and "eyeglasses."


 

#33 NDfarmer

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Posted 23 January 2019 - 05:45 PM

Zoomies.png



I like this binocular, it is both a pair of glasses and
a binocular. If you ask me about what power it is, I'm not sure.

I really like it when I want a good view of the rings of Saturn.

Edited by NDfarmer, 23 January 2019 - 05:47 PM.

 

#34 hallelujah

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Posted 23 January 2019 - 06:33 PM

https://en.wikipedia...inocular_vision


 

#35 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 23 January 2019 - 06:44 PM

terraclarke, on 23 Jan 2019 - 12:07 PM, said:

Well lookie here! We’ve waded through this morass more than once:

https://www.cloudyni...-of-binoculars/


Here's a 2009 thread..

https://www.cloudyni...h/#entry3181970

Jon
 

#36 Tony Flanders

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Posted 23 January 2019 - 07:29 PM

Never use “binocular” in the single unless as an adjective; either “pair of binoculars” when you need to specify a particular unit or (better) “binoculars” when it’s OK to leave it vague whether it’s singular or plural.

By the way, let me point out that this rule applies only to Sky & Telescope publications -- it's a style choice, much like using the Oxford comma. (Tom, Dick, and Harry). I have nothing against the use of "a binocular" or "I own six binoculars" in general; they seem quite clear and unambiguous to me. I don't think that anybody is going to be confused, and think that "six binoculars" is the same thing as "three pairs of binoculars."

 

The reason for avoiding the phrase "a binocular" in S&T publications is simply that it sounds unnatural to a large number of readers. Also, S&T is a proudly fuddy-duddy publication, and generally prefers old-fashioned usages unless there's a specific reason to avoid them.


 

#37 NDfarmer

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Posted 23 January 2019 - 08:18 PM

Tony:
It is good to hear you are not thinking you are the authority here.

This is not "Sky and Telescope".

In the end, it does not matter much, however binoculars are called.

It seems just a nit to pick.

Just a fun discussion...
 

#38 OneGear

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Posted 23 January 2019 - 11:27 PM

I'm still waiting for people to fall into line with proper plural usage, as in, "I've got at least three decent binoculi to choose from tonight."


 

#39 Mad Matt

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Posted 24 January 2019 - 02:36 AM

Let me try to take a somewhat scientific approach. My apologies if this has been repeated elsewhere. I have not read every thread on this.

I have been an anti "pair of" person up until now... looking into the grammar behind this discussion actually changed my mind bigshock.gif... Now let me explain.

I was an anti "pair of" person because I was under the impression that the word "binocular" was the proper way of referring to a single instance of an optical device used by both eyes to magnify objects. This is apparently not the case. First lets look at two words:
  • The singular word "binocular" is primarily an adjective and is only used as a noun in the attributive form.
  • The plural word "binoculars" is only a noun and refers to a single instance of a hand-held device consisting of a series of lenses and prisms, used to magnify objects so that they can be better seen from a distance, and looked at through both eyesSource: Wiktionary.

The word "binoculars" can be considered a Plurale tantem... Here is a definition from WIkipedia:

In English, pluralia tantum are often words which denote objects that occur or function as pairs or sets, such as spectacles, trousers, pants, scissors, clothes, or genitals.


Note the word "function" which is key to the discussion in my opinion. Binoculars also only function (with two eyes) as a pair and accordingly can be put in the same boat as scissors, pants and glasses. The reason for using "binoculars" as a plurale tantem (i.e. in plural form) in the english language is to distinguish the word from the attributive noun form "binocular" i.e. "binocular vision", "binocular telescope".

If we can then establish that the plural form is correct designation for binoculars (or many other plurale tantem words) then if we try to use it in a singular sentence in its naturally plural form, it suddenly becomes clumsy... "I have a binoculars", "That is a scissors", "What a lovely glasses you have on"

Remember, we cant use the singular form as that is reserved for the attributive noun... that means we must somehow make the plural form work naturally in those sentences... To do that we have to turn the plural instance of the subject into a singular form without actually changing the true number of items. Adding "pair of" does this as the subject itself is plurale tantem and it allows all elements of sentence to maintain the proper the grammatical category of number.

"I have a pair of binoculars", "That is a pair of scissors", "What a lovely pair of glasses you have on" now sound naturally correct and the sentences maintain proper grammatical number.

Now there are those who now say that "a pair of binoculars" would be two binoculars need to consider that the term "a pair of" is used to make two of something singular.. Look at the definition of "pair":

Two similar or identical things taken together; often followed by of.


The "taken together" is important... when you are referring to two binoculars bear in mind that they are not inherently tied, joined or "taken" together. i.e. a single instance of the two binoculars can equally be referred to of and by itself. This is why the correct way to refer to two binoculars is... you guessed it... "two binoculars" grin.gif ... If you need to refer to two binoculars as a single entity then you would use the term "both binoculars" which preserves the plurale tantem nature. A mistake that many of us also make is saying "I have many pairs of binoculars"... This is incorrect, it should be "I have many binoculars". blush.gif

I hope that provides a little clarity.

-Matt, now with "a pair of" grin.gif

PS. I assume the same is applicable to the abbreviation "binos"... i.e. "those are my binos, I love them because they give me bino vision." flowerred.gif smile.gif

Edited by Mad Matt, 25 January 2019 - 12:15 AM.

 

#40 edwincjones

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Posted 24 January 2019 - 05:14 AM

it is six of one, a half dozen of the other

 

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#41 Tony Flanders

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Posted 24 January 2019 - 05:48 AM

I'm still waiting for people to fall into line with proper plural usage, as in, "I've got at least three decent binoculi to choose from tonight."

By that reasoning, the singular form of the word should be binoculus.


 

#42 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 24 January 2019 - 05:51 AM

Let me try to take a somewhat scientific approach. My apologies if this has been repeated elsewhere. I have not read every thread on this.

 

goodjob.gif

 

Matt:

 

Excellent post. I learned a lot and read it several times.

 

I'd say it's the definitive post on the subject .

 

Jon


 

#43 zawijava

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Posted 24 January 2019 - 11:19 AM

A single instrument is correctly termed a binocular just as we refer to a single machine as a bicycle, not a pair of bicycles.

 

Graham

Who put the "n" in binocular? And why didn't they put it in bicycle? Hmmm...?


 

#44 Myk Rian

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Posted 24 January 2019 - 11:19 AM



] English is a curious language.


And it just gets curiouser.
There ain't not no way to get people to stop tearing the language up. Texting sure doesn't help.
Calling 2 deer in the woods, deers, has always ground my goat. Whatever that means.


Myk
 

#45 genelew

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Posted 24 January 2019 - 01:44 PM

I'm really happy that I started this thread. I've enjoyed the clever, erudite, and humorous posts and found the dialogue most enlightening. And now, despite my curmudgeonly nature, I'm prepared to graciously accept binocular, binoculars or pair of... as acceptable. However I will continue to interpret any references to a trinocular as implying a matched set consisting of a binocular and a monocular (unless the poster is from the Degobah system). And I will continue to have great sympathy for BillC who posted on the 2012 thread (https://www.cloudyni...-of-binoculars/ ) that whenever he wore a "pair" of pants, he kept tripping. I might suggest to him that, especially on cold nights, he wear one pant inside the other.

This has been fun! Thanks to all.smile.gif

Gene


Edited by genelew, 24 January 2019 - 01:48 PM.

 

#46 Pinac

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Posted 24 January 2019 - 03:45 PM

.....
.....
.....
Calling 2 deer in the woods, deers .....

Reminds me of the day when I saw two deers and two mooses meet up with three sheeps at the edge of the pond and all together watch the fishes in the water undecided.gif


 

#47 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 24 January 2019 - 04:53 PM


And it just gets curiouser.
There ain't not no way to get people to stop tearing the language up. Texting sure doesn't help.
Calling 2 deer in the woods, deers, has always ground my goat. Whatever that means.


Myk

 

People tearing up the language is the sign of a living , growing,  dynamic language that is always changing to keep up with the needs of communication . Archaic forms and rules are discarded in favor of ones that are more efficient and effective .

 

Jon


 

#48 Mike G.

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Posted 24 January 2019 - 05:59 PM

People tearing up the language is the sign of a living , growing,  dynamic language that is always changing to keep up with the needs of communication . Archaic forms and rules are discarded in favor of ones that are more efficient and effective .

 

Jon

Sorry, but I will never consider “jon and me went to the dark site” as acceptable over “jon and I went to the dark site”. Just seems uneducated. 


 

#49 Grimnir

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Posted 24 January 2019 - 06:09 PM

Who put the "n" in binocular? And why didn't they put it in bicycle? Hmmm...?

,,, because 'ocular' starts with a vowel but 'cycle' does not.

 

This is an explanation rather than just a opinion.

 

Graham


 

#50 faackanders2

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Posted 24 January 2019 - 09:47 PM

In Italian, oddly, the word for binoculars  is singular ("binocolo"), while trousers, socks and glasses are plural ("pantaloni", "calzini", "occhiali").

For glasses we actually say "un paio di occhiali" (literally "a pair of glasses").

 

Curiously, the plural word "occhiali" is used for the glasses, nowadays the singular word is not used anymore, but when Galileo Galilei described his telescope he called it "occhiale" (Galileo wrote his most important writings, such as Il Saggiatore and the Dialogo, and his letters, in Italian instead of in Latin, that was the language of the academic world at the time).

Before eye glasses were polular, people only used one monocular if they could afford it.  That may be why pair of glasses came from to distinguish it from just the monocular.


 


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