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Jun 7, 2010
This week's theme
Words that appear plural but aren't

This week's words
taxis
starets
congeries
shambles
kudos

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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

A recent newspaper report about a baseball player read: "Swisher is against resting his injured left bicep." It's not unusual to find constructions such as this in the sports pages of the dailies.

Of course, the word is "biceps" (plural is biceps or bicepses), but the writer of the above sentence can be forgiven for assuming the word biceps to be a plural and forming the word "bicep". It happens all the time in the evolution of a language.

That's how we got the word pea from the former singular pease ("Pease porridge hot..."), sherry from sherris, and cherry from cherise, for example. This week we'll feature five more words that appear plural, but aren't.

taxis

PRONUNCIATION:
(TAK-sis) plural taxes (TAK-seez)

MEANING:
noun:
1. Movement of an organism toward or away from a stimulus.
2. Order, arrangement, or classification.
3. The manual repositioning of a displaced body part to its normal position, in a case of hernia, for example.

ETYMOLOGY:
From Greek taxis (arrangement, order), from tassein (to arrange).

NOTES:
1. The word tropism is usually applied to plants. 2. The word for a public vehicle, taxi, is unrelated. A taxi is one which taxes, etymologically speaking. It's short for taximeter, the name of the device that calculates the fare. 3. Also see parataxis.

USAGE:
"I believe every action an insect makes is due to a reflex, a taxis or a tropism."
Poppy Adams; The Sister; Anchor; 2009.

"Dionysius wanted to see the entire cosmos as a taxis, in the sense of a hierarchy."
James H. Charlesworth; Jesus and Archaeology; Wm. B. Eerdmans; 2006.

See more usage examples of taxis in Vocabulary.com's dictionary.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
Laughter and tears are meant to turn the wheels of the same machinery of sensibility; one is wind-power, and the other water-power. -Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., poet, novelist, essayist, and physician (1809-1894)

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