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As far as I know, the five actors to have played the role of Batman in films are Adam West, Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, and Christian Bale. Is it grammatical to call them "the batmen"?

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batmen with a small B is a perfectly normal word, but unfortunately has nothing to to with Bruce Wayne (in a military context, it refers to soldier-servants). So if you do wish to use the word, you need to retain the capital letter. –  TimLymington Sep 11 '12 at 21:53
    
@Tim batmen aren't the multiple older batboys at a baseball game? –  Mitch Sep 11 '12 at 22:35
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If it is grammatical, you'd really want to capitalize it: " B atmen ". –  Mitch Sep 11 '12 at 22:38
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5 Answers 5

I would say that strictly speaking it is not. Irregular plurals carry if they are instances of the base word. A "fireman" is a type of man, so "firemen" is the appropriate plural, but the "Toronto Maple Leafs" are not leaves.

Since Batman is a proper noun, Batman does not designate a type of man but the name for one particular man, so the irregular plural does not carry. It should be "the Batmans". However, this is, at least to my ear, somewhat awkward.

So you have three choices. If you want to be strictly correct and not be awkward, "the actors who portrayed Batman". If you don't mind being a bit awkward, "the Batmans". If you can tolerate a few points off on your poetic license, and can see Batman as not so much a proper noun but as a type of man, then why not ... "the Batmen".

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I don't think the Batmans is awkward. People didn't have any problem referring to Sony Walkmans. –  alcas Sep 11 '12 at 21:16
    
@alcas: True, that's not awkward at all. (Though Sony didn't like it, insisting one should say "Walkman personal entertainment devices".) I toned down my description of the Batmans as awkward. –  David Schwartz Sep 11 '12 at 21:24
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But the plural "pop flies" is used. –  JLG Sep 11 '12 at 21:44
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hm... I think all that indicates is that, since pop flys and pop flies would be pronounced the same, people are more likely to use the regular spelling. It's not a very illustrative example for that reason. Things like Sony Walkmans or the Toronto Maple Leafs (not Walkmen or Maple Leaves) better illustrate the point. IIRC, these are so-called "headless compounds": man is not the head of the compound Walkman (i.e. a Walkman is not a type of man) so Walkman follows regular pluralization rules, not the irregular one followed by man. –  alcas Sep 11 '12 at 21:51
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@alcas: Thanks. Answer improved. –  David Schwartz Sep 11 '12 at 22:43
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No. Batman is a single character. Multiple actors have played the character, but there's only one Batman.

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In this case I read "Batmans" in the sense of "Batman portrayals" given the OP's examples. As in opera we could write about great Figaros. –  MετάEd Sep 12 '12 at 0:09
    
+1 for pointing out what should be obvious. There is one fictional character called Batman, so 'Batmen' is not even logical, never mind grammatical. The OP list five Batman actors, not five 'batmen'. –  Roaring Fish Sep 12 '12 at 0:48
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You could write the batmen, and if you’re writing an attention-getting headline, maybe you should. But it is definitely unusual enough to call attention to itself, and you typically don’t want to distract the reader from what you’re trying to say.

Batmans sounds obviously wrong to me, unless you’re going for laughs. Cf. librarymans.

For what it’s worth, there is an actual episode of an actual Batman-themed TV show titled “Night of the Batmen!”. Apparently the Batmen of All Nations are a thing too.

Maybe it’s just me but it seems like real sentences using batmen tend to be a bit informal in tone:

The result was 3 pages of Batmen in their off-hours, when they’re just kicking back and taking a break from being the Batmen we all know and love.

while those using batmans are extremely informal in tone:

I freely admit I love ALL THE BATMANS.

i think the batmans weapons cannot even harm iron man as he withstands powerful missiles.so ironman wins the game.

All “decent” actors when giving the approriate character… but not in this type of movie…. maybe in the batmans of the 90’s…

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We would, of course, have both supermen and Supermans. –  Edwin Ashworth Sep 11 '12 at 22:52
    
@Edwin: Let's not forget about Wonder Womans. –  J.R. Sep 11 '12 at 23:22
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Well, your second-to-last example is just somebody forgetting to put an apostrophe in the possessive. –  alcas Sep 12 '12 at 6:07
    
The first ‘Batmans’ example is a case of the Internet meme all the [plural], which always uses a regular (or even doubled regular) plural, even if ungrammatical. “I want all the moneys”, “I had all the feels”, “I love all the womanses”. An irregular plural just does not occur in this construction. The second is a missing apostrophe, as alcas says. The third, to me, uses a regular plural because it is a plural of the movies, not the characters. There have been different Romeos and Juliets in the Romeo and Juliets of the 20th century, and different Batmen in the Batmans of the 90s. –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 15 at 13:29
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Batman is the name of a character. Philip Seymor Hoffman played Truman Capote in the movie Capote. In referring to this character, if there were remake, the various portrayals would not be Trumen.

It is conceivable that the various players collectively could be referred to as the Trumans, but that feels very artificial. Each of the actors would have played Truman and collectively they played Truman or the Truman roles.

While it is arguable that there have been many Othellos, I think it is much better form to indicate that many have been Othello, that is, when referring to character names, the plural should be avoided. (Perhaps the only exception is a mulitplicity of Elvises and only when they appear in multiples at the same time, such as in Honeymoon in Vegas.)

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Truman isn’t really a good parallel, since it is not an obvious compound. Historically, the last part is ‘man’, but synchronically, Truman is just a name, and it is pronounced /ˈtruːm(ə)n/, not /ˈtruːˌmæn/. Batman, on the other hand, is a synchronic compound: it is very much ‘the Bat Man’, and unlike the regular noun ‘batman’, the name is always pronounced /ˈbætˌmæn/, never /ˈbætm(ə)n/. –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 15 at 13:23
    
@JanusBahsJacquet I think you are probably right that Truman is a bad analogy. My view remains since there is no species of batmen but only a series, taken one at a time, of Batman. –  bib Feb 15 at 16:04
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Yes, it is grammatical.
Batman, UK noun, plural Batmen. The personal servant of an officer especially in the British Armed Forces

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+1 - excellent answer! –  medica Feb 15 at 13:04
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