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Is it linguistically incorrect to singularise the word "dregs", as in the following example:

He finished off every last dreg of his coffee.

If so, are there any other English words which can only exist in plural form?

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Hmm... a downvote with no comment. Thanks! –  Urbycoz Jul 21 '11 at 12:36
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2 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

However rare, dreg is indeed the singular form of dregs. The word enjoyed employment by Shakespeare in Troilus and Cressida (Act 3, Sc. 2):

What too curious dreg espies my sweet lady in the fountain of our love?

I managed to gather a few words ending in -s that are most often used as plural-only: scissors, shears, tongs, trousers, measles, series, gallows, species, thanks, clothes, bellows, outskirts, pampas, premises, pajamas, rabies.

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What do you call one half of a pair of scissors while you are making them ? –  mgb Apr 18 '11 at 15:32
    
A tine? Or maybe a leg? :-) –  Rory Alsop Apr 18 '11 at 15:59
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@mgb That would be a scissor, also commonly used in scissor kick. Scissor can also be used as a verb to describe the action of scissors. –  HaL Apr 18 '11 at 16:04
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Some of the words in your list I think are actually just singular words that happen to end in "s": Measles is dangerous (not are); similarly for rabies; This is a new species. (Some more of them can be singular or plural: Where is/are the gallows?; Pampas is/are a type of grass. Similarly you could add: Their headquarters is/are in London.) –  psmears Apr 18 '11 at 16:39
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@The Raven: Despite appearances, specie is not the singular of species. They are related - both come from the same Latin word (in different cases, hence the different endings) - but both are singular in Latin, and they have remained so in English. –  psmears Apr 19 '11 at 8:40
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No, it is not linguistically incorrect to use the word dreg: http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/dreg

There are many other pluralia tantum as mentioned in this (closed) question where I learned about 1000 English pluralia tantum and Mass nouns

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I am having trouble understanding this answer. The last sentence in particular: What comment are you referring to? –  MrHen Apr 18 '11 at 18:32
    
@MrHen See update. I was just irritated when I wasted time commenting instead of answering –  mplungjan Apr 19 '11 at 8:08
    
Ah okay. No worries. :) –  MrHen Apr 19 '11 at 12:57
    
+1 for English pluralia tantum –  HaL Apr 19 '11 at 13:52
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