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Does the plural form of uh-oh and oh-no include an apostrophe? So is it "uh-oh's and oh-no's" or "uh-ohs and oh-nos"?

I've seen it both ways and cannot find a definitive answer anywhere.

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I've also seen the plural of cat use an apostrophe. That does not mean anything. Plurals in English do not use apostrophes, period. The only exception is when you are building a plural of a highly unusual word, such as a single letter, and it could be confused with a different, well-established word. So for example you'd write A's to distinguish it from as. (Though even that is a matter of style; some style guides will tell you to go ahead and use As anyway.) Uh-ohs cannot be possibly confused with anything, however, so there are absolutely no excuses left to throw in an apostrophe. –  RegDwigнt May 17 '13 at 15:01
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I can't quite agree with Reg. Some authorities license no's, do's and ex's; this is to avoid the awkward-looking nos, dos and exs rather than any confusion (capitalisation distinguishes DOS). (No, do and ex are only 'highly unusual' in the form a regular plural would take / takes, of course.) By extension, this would argue for oh no's also being licensed; you'll have to decide on whether or not uh-hos looks acceptable. I'd use an apostrophe (but then I also use a semicolon as a 'super-comma' if I think it makes sense). –  Edwin Ashworth May 17 '13 at 16:37
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As regards pluralising no, I'd expect this to follow the same pattern as do. Google Books claims over 1M instances of "the do's and {the don'ts}", compared to only 92K for "the does and" (many if not most of which are irrelevant references to female deer anyway). Ignore 41 instances of "the dos and the donts" –  FumbleFingers May 17 '13 at 18:05
    
@FumbleFingers: Off the top of my head, I'd say that the use of the word 'do' informally to mean an arranged party or 'bash' (a works do) was once more common hereabouts (Manchester) than that of do as in do's and don'ts. –  Edwin Ashworth May 17 '13 at 21:50
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@Edwin: I'm not sure the precise sense would materially affect the way it was pluralised. You're highly unlikely to say (write, I mean) "I'm going to a couple of office dos next month". And to be honest, I suspect more people would write do's there than does (for obvious reasons which don't actually apply to noes/no's). –  FumbleFingers May 17 '13 at 22:01

3 Answers 3

I don't see any reason the plural should use an apostrophe in the "uh-oh" case. Indeed, if we check google ngrams for "uh-oh's" vs "uh-ohs", we see that there is no usage of "uh-oh's", but some (and increasing!) usage of "uh-ohs". Furthermore, use of "ohs" is far more common that of "oh's" (as seen here).

However, in the "oh-no" case, an apostrophe might be appropriate. We can see that "no's" is the most common plural of "no" here.

I'd also like to mention that, while "uh-oh" is far more common that "uh oh", it seems that "oh no" is actually the more common form of that interjection, as can be seen here, so the most proper plurals might be "uh-ohs" and "oh no's", respectively.

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Oh course Google is there to save the day. Thank you for such a helpful answer. –  JF Steele May 17 '13 at 15:02
    
If you like the answer, you could up-vote and/or check it! –  Ben Reich May 17 '13 at 15:09
    
I think you're being misled by the fact that NGrams doesn't work very well with hyphens and apostrophes. In Google Books, which treats them differently, I get "uh-ohs":742, "uh-oh's":648. Statistically speaking, no significant difference. –  FumbleFingers May 17 '13 at 17:59

A cursory googling suggests 73000 results for "oh-no's", 113000 for "oh-nos" and 2170000 for "oh-noes" - however, the latter has become a meme, skewing the numbers. The dictionary lists plurals for "no" of "noes" (first) and "nos" (second). I also find I'm getting annoyed by the massive overuse of apostrophes in the world, but that's not quite germane.

I'd suggest "oh-noes" or "oh-nos", or "oh-no"s if you're an radical.

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While the memification of "oh-noes" makes your data useless, I'm giving you a +1 for the radical suggestion because it amuses me. –  Kyle Strand May 17 '13 at 16:42
    
Er, which dictionary? –  TimLymington May 23 '13 at 22:18
    
Webster's Universal Encyclopedic Dictionary, 2002 edition, ISBN 0-7607-2911-5, p 1236: "plural noes or nos". –  Alex North-Keys May 24 '13 at 14:03

I asked my meme-minded son to check his texts. In this little electronic corpus, he found seven instances of "oh noes!!!" with no hyphen, no apostrophe, and too many exclamation points.

An official source is Merriam-Webster's New Words and Slang, which includes oh noes.

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