Ethics, Mathematics, Genetics
Posted: 20 May 2007 09:00 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Is anyone familiar with the etymology of the S at the end of words describing certain fields of study or science, for example, Ethics, Mathematics, or Genetics?

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Posted: 21 May 2007 02:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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In lack of an answer from someone better versed in Latin I’ll let you have my thoughts.

I guess it is a plural -s. I say ‘guess’, because I think that English follows the Latin example here.
Mathematica, physica, etc. which are all plurals (from mathematicum, physicum etc.)

Surely someone will be around soon, to get you more clarifications (like: why is it considered a plural to begin with?)

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Posted: 21 May 2007 06:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I think that’s the answer, the -ic ending takes the plural after the Latin practice. Note that mathematics was originally the study of mathematic, but shifted in the 16th century to take the plural in imitation of the Latin practice.

Disciplines that don’t end in -ic seem to use the singular form as a collective, emphasizing the unity of the discipline. Hence one studies medicine, not medicines. It is the study of language, which is subtly different from the study of languages. (The former is also known as linguistics, with the -ic and the plural.)

In other cases, there may be clipping going on. The study of English is short for English language or English literature.

If you have counterexamples, I’d like to see them. I can’t think of any, but there are undoubtedly some.

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Posted: 21 May 2007 06:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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And why is mathematics abbreviated as “math” in the States and “maths” in the UK?

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Posted: 21 May 2007 08:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I think it’s the usual story of the US preserving the older form of the word (earliest cite in OED for “math” is 1847, earliest for “maths”, 1911).

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Posted: 21 May 2007 09:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Dave Wilton - 21 May 2007 06:17 AM

I think that’s the answer, the -ic ending takes the plural after the Latin practice. Note that mathematics was originally the study of mathematic, but shifted in the 16th century to take the plural in imitation of the Latin practice.

So does ‘magic’ - from which I contend a number of these disciplines arose have the same reson for the -ic ending?

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Posted: 21 May 2007 09:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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OED:

In English, such words of this class as were in use before 1500 had the singular form, and were usually written, after French, -ique, -ike, as arsmetike, magike, musike, logike (-ique), retorique, mathematique (-ike, -ik), mechanique, economique, ethyque (-ik); this form is retained in arithmetic, logic, magic, music, rhetoric (though logics has also been used). But, from the 15th c., forms in -ics (-iques) occur as names of treatises (repr. Gr. names in - or their L. translations in -ica), e.g. etiques = ; and in the second half of the 16th c. this form is found applied to the subject-matter of such treatises, in mathematics, economics, etc. From 1600 onward, this has been the accepted form with names of sciences, as acoustics, conics, dynamics, ethics, linguistics, metaphysics, optics, statics, or matters of practice, as æsthetics, athletics, economics, georgics, gymnastics, politics, tactics. The names of sciences, even though they have the form in -ics, are now construed as singular, as in ‘mathematics is the science of quantity; its students are mathematicians’; in recent times some writers, following German or French usage, have preferred to use a form in -ic, as in dialectic, dogmatic, ethic, metaphysic, static, etc. Names of practical matters as gymnastics, politics, tactics, usually remain plural, in construction as well as in form.

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Posted: 21 May 2007 10:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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flynn999 - 21 May 2007 09:08 AM

Dave Wilton - 21 May 2007 06:17 AM
I think that’s the answer, the -ic ending takes the plural after the Latin practice. Note that mathematics was originally the study of mathematic, but shifted in the 16th century to take the plural in imitation of the Latin practice.

So does ‘magic’ - from which I contend a number of these disciplines arose have the same reson for the -ic ending?

The entry at Dictionary.com addresses the word magic specifically in one the listings for the -ic ending.

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Posted: 21 May 2007 11:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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OED: “Middle French magique [from] post-classical Latin magica (3rd cent.), use as noun (short for ars magica magic art) of the feminine of magicus.” In other words, it’s from a feminine, not a plural.

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Posted: 24 May 2007 07:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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I notice that in German and Hebrew that the word “sport” is used for what we Americans call “sports”—athletic games and such.  In the UK and Commonwealth, which do they say?  Anyone know why?

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Posted: 25 May 2007 11:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Both and no

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