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I am translating something from German to English (my mother-in-law's war stories), and she wrote of having lived in various labor camps while she was in the custody of the Soviets after WW 2. She writes of having lived "in einer Baracke", and the singular form for it in English is "barrack", but do we really ever use the singular form? Despite my 8 years in the US Army where this word was used frequently, I never heard the singular form used. My German-English dictionary says "hut, barrack", and the Free Online Dictionary says "A building or group of buildings used to house military personnel. Often used in the plural." Well, always is not often, clearly.

The reason I am asking is because I am considering using the singular form (making her story into a book, you see) in order to keep somewhat of the flavor of the original account. But is that a good idea, do you think? It will be English speakers who will read this book, and I don't want them to think I spelled the word wrong.

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marked as duplicate by MετάEd, Mitch, tchrist, choster, FumbleFingers Jun 30 '13 at 20:50

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A related question is here. –  Brian Hooper Jun 30 '13 at 6:20

1 Answer 1

I haven't been in the army, but as a born-and-bred American, I don't think I've ever heard "barrack" used in the singular either; even in trying to keep to the tone of your mother's story I'd go with the plural "barracks." It's just one of those language idioms that doesn't translate (well) directly.

It's possible the Brits use the singular "barrack", but you'd have to ask one of them.

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I've heard or seen the verb barrack, meaning “To jeer and heckle; to attempt to disconcert by verbal means”, used a number of times –  jwpat7 Jun 30 '13 at 4:51

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