Did you know that plurals are now very out-dated? If you’re not a follower of fashion you’ll probably think I’ve taken leave of my senses, but bear with me a moment. It’s a well-known fact that business often expropriates language for applications that are sector-specific. Thus, we ‘populate’ websites, ‘deliver’ courses and ‘cascade’ information. But the reverse can happen too and that’s where the errant ‘s’ rears its head (or rather it doesn’t, having seemingly been given its marching orders by English speaking fashionistas and creative retail marketeers on both sides of the Pond).
If you’re still scratching your head and wondering where this is all going, consider the following exhortation that caught my eye the other day, while browsing self-styled fashion guru, Trinny Woodhall’s, rather addictive video channel: “Join Trinny as she lifts her mood with a well-applied lip”. And on MAC Cosmetics’ own site, you can learn all about: “… the red carpet’s favourite: a smokey eye and a red lip”.
I’m definitely not the only observer to notice the shift to the singular in reference to a pair, and various explanations have been postulated as to why this (in my opinion) rather irritating habit has become so ingrained. In her spoof of the British world of fashion ‘Fabulously Fashionable’, Holly McQueen highlights this lexical lunacy saying, “These people do not speak about clothes the way ordinary people do. A word like ‘pants’ is, more often, ‘a pant’. Similarly, shoes are always ‘a shoe’; jeans are usually ‘a jean’.
I can feel your pain fellow English teachers. When the HQ of a world-famous and highly respected title like Vogue appears to have issued an edict encouraging ‘s’-dropping, what can you say to your students? You might explain that the whole raison d’être of fashion is to inspire and therefore a quirky way with words is an unavoidable and indeed necessary aspect of an influencer’s communication style. And anyway, does this usage really have a potential future in general parlance?
While this grammatical peculiarity may largely be confined to the discourse of make-up and the ‘rag trade’, it’s already creeping into the dictionaries it seems, so I guess we’ll all have to get used to it. Perhaps by simply bucking linguistic convention and going singular, the item in question sounds more ‘on-trend’ and elegant. Doesn’t ‘a kitten heel, a flared trouser and a lacy cuff’ sound more refined in the singular? That being the case, I’m off to don a cropped jean and a statement sleeve, not forgetting a bold lip and a subtly shimmery eye! Classy, cool and cutting-edge, that’s me!