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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
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
@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
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
@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
You really need to distinguish between words whose singular happens to end with an "s", and words that are only or primarily used as plurals. We say "a pair of scissors" and a "pair of trousers", so I guess those are plurals. "Species" is spelled the same whether singular or plural: "one species, two species". (Not unique in that. Consider "fish", "sheep", etc) – Jay Feb 17 '12 at 20:49

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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