Perils in plurals

[This started out as “A Tale of Two Plurals,” but it has expanded even before birth.]

  1. Devotions. How and why did this become plural? My devotion, singular, may or may not be in evidence, and it may or may not be a reality. I prefer the singular “time of devotion” or the adjectival form, e.g., “devotional meditation.” When people write or talk about doing “devotions,” I wonder whether they are thinking more in terms of going through motions, or perhaps of doing things that so-and-so has prescribed in his serial book of devotions. I’m not sure exactly why, but “devotions,” for me, smacks of liturgical form over substance.
  2. Ministries. How and why did this become plural? Ever notice how a single effort will seem to take on authority and status because it is named in the plural? Why must it be “Jo Schmeau’s Flower Ministries” or “Joseph Schmoh’s Deliverance Ministries”? For many “ministry” (one should really probe what the singular consists in!) leaders, a real status boost occurs when they go plural. See here and here for more queries related to today’s religious “ministries.”
  3. All-States. How and why did this become plural? New York does it again: myopically creates a standard that people who’ve lived here for years appear to accept without questioning. I am conducting an “Area All-State” festival this weekend. “Area” and “All-State” are mutually exclusive, it seems to me. (What this is is an All-Region group, and it has historically been given a falsely elevated status by the application of the label “All-State.”) All-State should be singular, without the need for a modifier such as New York’s “Conference” and “Area.”

[4. Postscript:] I suppose “Prisms” can easily be a valid plural, but in my case, I’m more than a little recalcitrant in the face of multiple Christmas “Prism” gala musical productions in multiple venues this year. Doing it two nights in one venue has been plenty; doing it four nights in three venues certainly indicates the plural, but it doesn’t make me any less worried about the taxing effects (how ’bout that for a plural?).

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