Monday, November 12, 2007

Pluralism, Period

A rhetorical tic I dislike: pluralizing abstract nouns ("pluralisms," "racisms," "sovereignties," etc.) without explanation, presumably to indicate a wider, less essentialized, more empirically verifiable version of a normally fuzzy concept. But of course in practice this makes the words vaguer and less verifiable — with the singular form you at least have a dictionary or a glossary of terms to refer to, but with the plural we have no recourse but to actually ask the author: "OK, exactly which 'pluralisms' are you thinking of?" In which case, why not just list all the relevant examples in the first place (at least in a footnote), and while you're at it attach them to a proper name.