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    #1

    withers are/withers is

    Wikipedia says, "The withers is the ridge between..." The dictionary says that "withers" is a plural noun. Who's right?

  1. lauralie2's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: withers are/withers is

    Quote Originally Posted by birdeen's call View Post
    Wikipedia says, "The withers is the ridge between..." The dictionary says that "withers" is a plural noun. Who's right?
    That dictionary also notes, 'this noun refers to one object.' Merriam-Webster adds, withers noun plural but (usually) singular or plural in construction. According to Wikibooks, withers derives from an adjective and as such is plural in form only, not in meaning.

    Etymonline has it as plural, 'the withers are the parts of the animal that oppose the load.' Hmm, if 'withers' refers to one object, how can 'withers' be defined as 'parts of the animal'? Etymonline, are you sure? Dictionary.com says 'wither' is used with a plural verb. Oxford paperback calls 'withers' a plural noun, but doesn't provide an example for subject-verb agreement.


    My advice, choose the dictionary you like and follow their advice. As for me, 'the withers is a part of the animal' is the way I would say it, be it deemed correct or not.

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    #3

    Re: withers are/withers is

    The article you refer to also contains, "The withers in horses are formed by..", and several other plural uses. My own view is that the dictionary reflects normal usage. Perhaps the writer of the article had in his mind for his first sentence something like, "(The term) 'the withers' refers to the ridge...", just as I might possibly say: "Brains is sometimes used as a synonym for intelligence". In writing I'd make my point clear by italicising the word or putting it in inverted commas; perhaps the writer of the wikipedia article didn't think of that. Perhaps.

    By the way, I (British) would use 'withers' on the rare occasions that I might wish to talk about that part of a horse's body, but my dictionary tells me that it is AmE. Does anybody know the term in BrE?

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    #4

    Re: withers are/withers is

    Quote Originally Posted by fivejedjon View Post

    By the way, I (British) would use 'withers' on the rare occasions that I might wish to talk about that part of a horse's body, but my dictionary tells me that it is AmE. Does anybody know the term in BrE?
    Well, according to its etymology it derives from Old English:

    Etymology

    1580, from Old English dialectical wiđer (“against”) +‎ -s; see with. So-named because the part of the horse that pushes against a load.

    I've also come across several UK horse sites that use the word withers, but, and like you, I am curious to see what others know or have found out. Is withers used only in the USA?

  4. BobK's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: withers are/withers is

    Quote Originally Posted by lauralie2 View Post
    Well, according to its etymology it derives from Old English:

    Etymology

    1580, from Old English dialectical wiđer (“against”) +‎ -s; see with. So-named because the part of the horse that pushes against a load.

    I've also come across several UK horse sites that use the word withers, but, and like you, I am curious to see what others know or have found out. Is withers used only in the USA?
    No, it's Br Eng too*. And - like scissors and trousers - I've usually seen it used in the singular.

    b

    PS *Though in most contexts it's very rarely used. The only use most people make of it is in the idiom - 'to wring one's withers'.
    Last edited by BobK; 17-Oct-2010 at 17:21.

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    #6

    Re: withers are/withers is

    Lauralie2 inspired me to go searching through my dictionaries:

    The full Oxford English Dictionary (2nd edn) 1989, says that the word is occasionally used in the singular. It gives nine quotations from 1580-1886 with the plural form, and six from 1607-1908 with the singular.

    Webster’s Third (1961), also mentions the singular form, but gives no quotations – but then it gives no quotations for the plural form with that meaning. On the illustration under horse, it gives only the plural form

    The Oxford Advanced Learner’s (6th edn), 2000, is the only one to mention AmE

    My other dictionaries give only the plural form and make no mention of BrE/AmE. They are:
    Sam Johnson’s, 1755; Odham’s, 1946; Virtue’s Simplified, 1943, The Concise Oxford (9th edn), 1995.

    I have certainly heard it used in Britain, and nobody has come up with a BrE version yet, I wonder while ALD thinks it is AmE.


    I was surprise to read that BobK has usually seen it in the singular, but then I have little to do with horses, soI haven't encountered it often.


    One more thing, BobK you write: "No, it's Br Eng too. And - like scissors and trousers - I've usually seen it used in the singular."
    Do you really mean that you usually see these two underlined nouns in the singular form?

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    #7

    Re: withers are/withers is

    Quote Originally Posted by fivejedjon View Post
    Lauralie2 inspired me to go searching through my dictionaries:

    The full Oxford English Dictionary (2nd edn) 1989, says that the word is occasionally used in the singular. It gives nine quotations from 1580-1886 with the plural form, and six from 1607-1908 with the singular.

    Webster’s Third (1961), also mentions the singular form, but gives no quotations – but then it gives no quotations for the plural form with that meaning. On the illustration under horse, it gives only the plural form

    The Oxford Advanced Learner’s (6th edn), 2000, is the only one to mention AmE

    My other dictionaries give only the plural form and make no mention of BrE/AmE. They are:
    Sam Johnson’s, 1755; Odham’s, 1946; Virtue’s Simplified, 1943, The Concise Oxford (9th edn), 1995.

    I have certainly heard it used in Britain, and nobody has come up with a BrE version yet, I wonder while ALD thinks it is AmE.


    I was surprise to read that BobK has usually seen it in the singular, but then I have little to do with horses, soI haven't encountered it often.


    One more thing, BobK you write: "No, it's Br Eng too. And - like scissors and trousers - I've usually seen it used in the singular."
    Do you really mean that you usually see these two underlined nouns in the singular form?
    NO. I mean that those words, in spite of their S, are singular in meaning.

    b

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    #8

    Re: withers are/withers is

    Sorry to push on this, BobK, but I am still not completely clear. I think we agree that scissors and trousers are singular in that they refer to one object, and that these words are followed by the plural form of the verb

    My scissors (= my one pair of scissors) are blunt.

    I am still not sure whether you are saying that you have seen sentences in BrE of the type: "The withers is the ridge between..."

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    #9

    Re: withers are/withers is

    Dog breed standards in the US have a specification that the breed in question should be (number of) inches at the withers. Unfortunately this gives us no clue to the plural/singular question.

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    #10

    Re: withers are/withers is

    Quote Originally Posted by fivejedjon View Post
    Sorry to push on this, BobK, but I am still not completely clear. I think we agree that scissors and trousers are singular in that they refer to one object, and that these words are followed by the plural form of the verb

    My scissors (= my one pair of scissors) are blunt.

    I am still not sure whether you are saying that you have seen sentences in BrE of the type: "The withers is the ridge between..."
    Good question. My examples were bad, as your use of 'pair of' in the singular paraphrase shows. One wouldn't say 'a pair of withers'.

    But as I said it's rare for a non-horsey/doggy person to use 'withers', except in the phrase 'wring ones withers'. And if I ever had cause to say anything so ridiculous, I would say 'my withers are wrung' rather than 'my withers is wrung'.

    So the issue of singularity/plurality doesn't often (if at all ) arise. A dog or horse is 'broad in the withers' (as a man may be 'broad in the chest'); and the owner of such an animal would not say 'My dog/horse's withers are broad', but neither would he say 'My dog/horse's withers is broad.'

    b

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