Newscasters say "Attorneys General." Why isn't it "Attorney Generals"?

Question is in subject line. Thanks.

“General” in this context is an adjective. It’s a French-derived usage – think “Estates General.”

We also say “courts-martial,” “surgeons-general,” “inspectors-general,” and so on.

Because “general” is a modifier describing “attorneys.”

The formation of the modifier after the noun is unusual in English, but it occurs from time to time (e.g., “mothers-in-law”).

in this case, “general” is an adjective, and “attorney” is a noun. So if you’re going to pluralize it, you must pluralize the noun. Other examples: directors general, courts martial, passers-by, Whoppers Junior.

I’ll have two Burritos Supreme, please.

The way I think of it is, the “General” is more of a job description than a job title. Pluralizing it the other way is like saying “doctor of oncologies.”

I’ve got gadgets and gizmos aplenty,
whosits and whatsits galore.
You what post-positive adjectives? I’ve got 20.
But who cares? You want lyrics?
I’ve got mooooooore…

Up with passers-by
Up where they run
Up where I spend all day with lookers-on
An S on “attorney”
in a spelling bee,
Part of that …wooooooooooord!

claps Well played, sir. Well played, indeed.

Why are those French people always screwing up our language!? :slight_smile:

Since the question has been answered, I’d like to take the opportunity to once again vent my spleen at attorneys general, surgeons general, inspectors general, solicitors general, etc., being addressed as “General.” AAAAAAAAGGGGGGGGHHHHH! I want to slap silly whoever perpetrates that bit of idiocy.

(I remember an episode of Sharp with Sean Bean, in which an officer made fun of a quartermaster general who wanted to be addressed as “general.”)

Right. The Surgeon General should be adressed as Vice Admiral.

Well General Olson was at least acceptable. General Kagan sounded ridiculous.

BTW what the hell is wrong with being called “Learned Counsel” or “the AG”, works for the Commonwealth and many judges make it sound like they are saying “you bloody fool”.
OTH I really love what the UK Government calls it official Court representative; Treasury Devil.

Companies’ head persons are sometimes called general managers. The general there is the same meaning as in attorneys general- so the plural goes on attorney.

I’m having trouble interpreting this comment in a way that doesn’t seem offensive to Kagan.

I don’t see what the hell is the problem with any official in a democracy being addressed as “Mr.” or “Ms./Mrs.”

Yes. They are General Managers in the sense that Attorneys General are General Attorneys. They are Attorneys first. They are not Generals who happen to also be Attorneys.

But isn’t “Attorney General” the full name of the title? I guess it’s really just convention that drives usage, but find it illogical to call them Attorneys General if we’re capitalizing both words.

I remember asking a question here years ago on why the Toronto hockey team is called the “Maple Leafs”, and not the “Maple Leaves”. I’m not sure, but I think that this question is analogous to that.

Of course, “General” as a title is just a corruption of the original “General Officer,” for which the plural would be “General Officers.”

This being GQ and all, I feel obliged to clarify that while the Treasury Devil is an official, Treasury Devil is not his or her official title.

Imagine that I gave myself the title Chef Extraordinaire.
Now lets say that I hire someone else, and give them the same title.

Would we be Chef Extraordinaires?
No, we’ve be Chefs Extraordinaire.
We are 2 extraordinary chefs.

The Attorney General is a general Attorney.