The Straight Dope

Go Back   Straight Dope Message Board > Main > In My Humble Opinion (IMHO)

View Poll Results: How do you spell the plurals of "tomato" and "potato"?
Potatoes and tomatoes 233 94.72%
Potatos and tomatos 9 3.66%
Some combination of these (please elaborate) 3 1.22%
Who do you think I am, Dan Quayle? 12 4.88%
Get a life, you two! 5 2.03%
Multiple Choice Poll. Voters: 246. You may not vote on this poll

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 06-06-2011, 09:17 PM
MsRobyn MsRobyn is online now
Straight Dope Science Advisory Board
 
Join Date: Mar 2000
Location: Between the Moon and NYC
Posts: 12,409
Plural of "tomato" and "potato"

Airman and I engaged in some discussion of a handwritten sign that I saw this afternoon. The sign says "Sorry, we're out of Tomatoes!" (That's verbatim.) I was so impressed with this burst of unexpected literacy that I took a picture of it and posted it to Facebook.

I, of course, know that the plural of "tomato" is "tomatoes". Airman, on the other hand, feels that the plural of "tomato" can be "tomatos". The OED, for what it's worth, backs him up, but to me, that just looks wrong.

This is not a "who's right" thing, because the OED does show "tomatos" as an alternate plural. This is more of a "How do most people do it?" thing.
Reply With Quote
Advertisements  
  #2  
Old 06-06-2011, 09:21 PM
guizot guizot is online now
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: An East Hollywood dingbat
Posts: 6,340
You can spell it tomatos in the same way you spell hobos. It's your choice. That's what America is about: choice.
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 06-06-2011, 09:28 PM
Idle Thoughts Idle Thoughts is offline
Moderator
 
Join Date: Aug 2003
Location: Arizona
Posts: 9,435
Never ever heard or seen it as "tomatos"...always spelled it (and seen it) as "tomatoes".
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 06-06-2011, 09:35 PM
Musicat Musicat is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Oct 1999
Location: Sturgeon Bay, WI USA
Posts: 17,535
The plural of to-MAY-to is to-MAH-to.
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 06-06-2011, 10:07 PM
Alan Smithee Alan Smithee is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 1999
You left off the correct choice: "Let's call the whole thing off!"
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 06-06-2011, 10:10 PM
Inner Stickler Inner Stickler is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2005
I spell it tomatoes and potatoes if someone else will see it so I don't get sucked into an argument about it but in stuff that's for my eyes only I have too much respect for E to whore her out like that.
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 06-06-2011, 10:31 PM
BigT BigT is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
The rule is to add es if the o is preceded by a consonant. There are 80 million uses of "tomatoes" on Google, but only 2.3 million uses of "tomatos." Also, every spell check I've used counts the latter as spelled incorrectly.
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 06-06-2011, 10:37 PM
Ostrya Ostrya is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
It should be "tomatoes" and "potatoes" - like the words "heroes" and "tornadoes". Unfortunately though, as we all know, if enough people spell a word wrongly for a long enough period of time, sooner or later it becomes accepted as being correct.

But I vow to keep spelling these words the way they're supposed to be!
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 06-06-2011, 10:47 PM
Princhester Princhester is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Brisbane, Australia
Posts: 11,503
Problem with "tomatos" is that it looks like the last syllable should be pronounced "-toss" instead of "-toes".

Last edited by Princhester; 06-06-2011 at 10:47 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 06-07-2011, 02:06 AM
needscoffee needscoffee is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Both ways are correct, but -oes is preferred.
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 06-07-2011, 02:33 AM
Mangetout Mangetout is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: May 2001
Location: England
Posts: 51,909
Potato's and Tomato's















What?

~os looks wrong to me (despite what the dictionaries say) - makes the writer look less than fully literate, IMO.

Last edited by Mangetout; 06-07-2011 at 02:35 AM..
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 06-07-2011, 10:30 AM
bibliophage bibliophage is offline
Charter Member
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: Maine
Posts: 9,433
The plural of tomato is tomatoes.
The plural of potato is spuds.

Seriously, I try to avoid writing the plural of potato because I can never quite remember if it has an e or not. I don't want people to think I'm as stupid as Dan Quayle, so I either write spuds or look it up. Writing spuds is a lot easier. Oddly, I never have much trouble remembering that tomatoes has an e. Maybe that's because until I was about 15 years old I was convinced the singular had an e: tomatoe.
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 02-16-2013, 03:39 PM
britespark britespark is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2013
'os', 'oes' & 'ose'

'Tomatos' refers to the fruit, 'tomatoes' refers to the vegetable, and 'tomatose' refers to the sugar.
I'm not sure if 'potatoes' follow the same rule, but I would assume that it possibly does for the vegetable and sugar, but not for the fruit since potato is clearly not a fruit. Although the plant itself does produce fruit.
Reply With Quote
  #14  
Old 02-16-2013, 03:43 PM
John Mace John Mace is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2002
Tomatos. Looks like a Greek word.
Reply With Quote
  #15  
Old 02-16-2013, 03:58 PM
Johanna Johanna is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Oct 1999
Location: Altered States of America
Posts: 11,577
For the digits on Marisa's nether limbs, the plural is Tomei toes.
Reply With Quote
  #16  
Old 02-20-2013, 03:39 AM
jabiru jabiru is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: Sydney, Australia
Posts: 2,695
Tomatoes - but I wouldn't capitalise the word unless it was at the beginning of a sentence. It's not a proper noun as far as I'm aware.
Reply With Quote
  #17  
Old 02-20-2013, 06:33 AM
Colophon Colophon is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2002
Quote:
Originally Posted by Princhester View Post
Problem with "tomatos" is that it looks like the last syllable should be pronounced "-toss" instead of "-toes".
As in "Dory-toss", the well known corn chip.
Reply With Quote
  #18  
Old 02-20-2013, 11:32 AM
FrankJBN FrankJBN is offline
BANNED
 
Join Date: Sep 2012
Posts: 592
"Problem with "tomatos" is that it looks like the last syllable should be pronounced "-toss" instead of "-toes". "


That's what it looks like to you? Tomatoss? The t-o-m-a-t-o part didn't give you any clue as to pronunciation?
Reply With Quote
  #19  
Old 02-20-2013, 12:31 PM
DrDeth DrDeth is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: San Jose
Posts: 22,775
There’s no good reason to add a “e”.
Reply With Quote
  #20  
Old 02-20-2013, 03:39 PM
Astroboy14 Astroboy14 is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2000
Location: Winslow, ME
Posts: 6,289
I just buy them one at a time. Issue avoided.
Reply With Quote
  #21  
Old 02-21-2013, 06:50 PM
ZenBeam ZenBeam is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Oct 1999
Location: I'm right here!
Posts: 8,600
Quote:
Originally Posted by Inner Stickler View Post
I spell it tomatoes and potatoes if someone else will see it so I don't get sucked into an argument about it but in stuff that's for my eyes only I have too much respect for E to whore her out like that.
Whor her out...
Reply With Quote
  #22  
Old 02-21-2013, 10:55 PM
SCAdian SCAdian is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2006
The plural of "to-may-to" is tomatoes.

The plural of "to-mah-to" is tomatos.
Reply With Quote
  #23  
Old 02-21-2013, 11:16 PM
squeegee squeegee is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: Gilroy CA
Posts: 8,258
What's the plural of tomatillo?
Reply With Quote
  #24  
Old 02-21-2013, 11:35 PM
DrDeth DrDeth is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: San Jose
Posts: 22,775
But seriously dudes- why add a "E"?
Reply With Quote
  #25  
Old 02-22-2013, 08:50 AM
Chefguy Chefguy is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: Portlandia
Posts: 29,207
Quote:
Originally Posted by squeegee View Post
What's the plural of tomatillo?
"salsa"
Reply With Quote
  #26  
Old 02-22-2013, 09:24 AM
Ichbin Dubist Ichbin Dubist is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2003
Quote:
Originally Posted by DrDeth View Post
But seriously dudes- why add a "E"?
Because the spelling of English words is often irrational and inconsistent. You can decide that it's more sensible to act tuf or have a cawf but most people are not going to understand what you're on about.
Reply With Quote
  #27  
Old 02-22-2013, 10:17 AM
DrDeth DrDeth is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: San Jose
Posts: 22,775
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ichbin Dubist View Post
Because the spelling of English words is often irrational and inconsistent. You can decide that it's more sensible to act tuf or have a cawf but most people are not going to understand what you're on about.
Really? No one will understand Tomatos?

Last edited by DrDeth; 02-22-2013 at 10:21 AM..
Reply With Quote
  #28  
Old 02-22-2013, 02:24 PM
TBG TBG is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2003
Quote:
Originally Posted by bibliophage View Post
I don't want people to think I'm as stupid as Dan Quayle,
Quayle only spelled potato[e] wrong because the official answer card the school gave him spelled it wrong. Hardly the act of stupidity it's been made out to be, and certainly not worth mocking someone about two decades later.
Reply With Quote
  #29  
Old 02-22-2013, 04:38 PM
Johanna Johanna is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Oct 1999
Location: Altered States of America
Posts: 11,577
Quote:
Originally Posted by TBG View Post
Quayle only spelled potato[e] wrong because the official answer card the school gave him spelled it wrong. Hardly the act of stupidity it's been made out to be,
Yes, it is. A non-stupid person would have immediately seen the error and corrected for it.
Quote:
and certainly not worth mocking someone about two decades later.
OK, that question depends on which party or faction you side with.
Reply With Quote
  #30  
Old 02-22-2013, 06:05 PM
Chefguy Chefguy is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: Portlandia
Posts: 29,207
Well, while were at it, does anybody think that "noes" just looks weird? As in: "In answer to the question, there was a chorus of 'noes'."
Reply With Quote
  #31  
Old 02-22-2013, 06:24 PM
DrDeth DrDeth is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: San Jose
Posts: 22,775
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chefguy View Post
Well, while were at it, does anybody think that "noes" just looks weird? As in: "In answer to the question, there was a chorus of 'noes'."
Yep.

Now, other than "that's the way they taught me" does anyone have a good reason for adding a un-needed "E" in there?
Reply With Quote
  #32  
Old 02-22-2013, 06:43 PM
septimus septimus is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2009
How about buffalo -- which has no less than three acceptable plurals: add {s}, {es} or {}.

[hijack for anecdote]
A Peace Corps worker near my home managed to almost ignore me for her year, despite that we kept crossing paths at Internet shops. When her term was almost up, we crossed again in an ice cream shop. She was in some light argument with another English teacher, acknowledging me only to ask for the plural of "buffalo" ... presumably to settle her argument. I hesitated, so she confronted me sarcastically with "What's the plural of fish?" I smiled and mentioned the "fishes" possibility, whereupon she turned away in anger and never spoke to me again.

Last edited by septimus; 02-22-2013 at 06:44 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #33  
Old 02-23-2013, 09:14 AM
Chefguy Chefguy is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: Portlandia
Posts: 29,207
Quote:
Originally Posted by DrDeth View Post
Yep.

Now, other than "that's the way they taught me" does anyone have a good reason for adding a un-needed "E" in there?
I guess it's no weirder than "yeses", which looks like some Nordic version of Jesus.
Reply With Quote
  #34  
Old 02-23-2013, 08:55 PM
~Olive~ ~Olive~ is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2011
What about banjo, gecko and mango?
Reply With Quote
  #35  
Old 04-08-2014, 03:39 PM
thadea thadea is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2014
Quote:
Originally Posted by BigT View Post
The rule is to add es if the o is preceded by a consonant. There are 80 million uses of "tomatoes" on Google, but only 2.3 million uses of "tomatos." Also, every spell check I've used counts the latter as spelled incorrectly.
Commando pl. commandos

therefore argument is invalid
Reply With Quote
  #36  
Old 04-08-2014, 03:43 PM
cochrane cochrane is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Quote:
Originally Posted by thadea View Post
Commando pl. commandos

therefore argument is invalid
There are exceptions to every "rule." Those don't invalidate it in general.

Last edited by cochrane; 04-08-2014 at 03:44 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #37  
Old 04-08-2014, 03:53 PM
DrCube DrCube is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
In my opinion, it can go either way. Like "grey" or "gray". Not every spelling question needs a definitive answer. But I "-es" looks right to me, so that's what I use.
Reply With Quote
  #38  
Old 04-08-2014, 04:26 PM
Earl Snake-Hips Tucker Earl Snake-Hips Tucker is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jul 1999
Location: South Carolina
Posts: 12,609
In my personal life, I would spell both plurals with an 'e', but if I were a making a sign, I might spell it without the 'e' to help keep prices low by using less ink.
Reply With Quote
  #39  
Old 04-08-2014, 06:31 PM
Green Bean Green Bean is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2000
Location: NJ, Exit #137
Posts: 10,960
Tomati and potati.
Reply With Quote
  #40  
Old 04-08-2014, 07:31 PM
Hockey Monkey Hockey Monkey is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Maters and taters.
Reply With Quote
  #41  
Old 04-08-2014, 08:12 PM
jabiru jabiru is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: Sydney, Australia
Posts: 2,695
Quote:
Originally Posted by jabiru View Post
Tomatoes - but I wouldn't capitalise the word unless it was at the beginning of a sentence. It's not a proper noun as far as I'm aware.
Damn. Didn't realise this was a zombie and intended posting almost exactly as above. I beat myself to it.
Reply With Quote
Reply



Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 07:01 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@chicagoreader.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to: sdsubscriptions@chicagoreader.com.

Copyright 2013 Sun-Times Media, LLC.