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By chance, I've heard a lot of Midlands English in the last few weeks, and have noticed this sort of disconnect: "It cost me five pound" (rather than 'pounds'); "The ball rolled ten foot" (rather than 'feet')

I'm tempted to think it's just a sort of English oral economy (like "he gave it me") but I'm intrigued to learn if it may have deeper, or different, roots.

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Thanks for correcting my misspelling, Marcus. The 'duplicate' you refer to doesn't really answer my question, though; not definitively, anyway. –  fortunate1 Sep 17 '12 at 13:34
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I cannot see anything relating to case here. –  tchrist Sep 17 '12 at 14:15
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Rural American dialects also use the singular-for-plural substitution in measurements like "mile", "foot", etc. The same dialects seem to use the present for the past in some cases, e.g., "He come fifty mile to see me." –  Robusto Sep 17 '12 at 15:32
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Here's another semi-duplicate: why-dont-we-pluralize-foot-in-measurements. But I think this is a different question. This is very old: "Master Shallow, I owe you a thousand pound." -2H4 –  StoneyB Sep 17 '12 at 15:59

2 Answers 2

There does seem to be a transatlantic divide, as Pam Peters reports in ‘The Cambridge Guide to English Usage’:

The constructions with feet are commoner in American than British English, by the evidence of language databases. Numerical expressions with feet tall outnumber those with foot tall by almost 10:1 in the Cambridge Corpus of American English, whereas it’s 5:1 in the British National Corpus. The greater use of the plural unit by Americans reflects their general preference for formal agreement.

Earlier in the article she describes the singular as ‘a conventional, stripped-down expression typical of conversation or no-nonsense reporting’. Of the plural she says that it ‘elaborates the individual measures to the point of redundancy’.

The use of the singular unit can be regarded as part of British Standard English and it is not restricted to any particular British region.

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Neither you nor I, tackled the question of whether saying 'foot' rather than 'feet' has deeper roots. I just thought it was dialect, but 'five foot' when discussing height is much more common than 'five feet'. I will be kind and give you one point as I do admire you. –  Robin Michael Sep 20 '12 at 10:17
    
@Barrie Even though one might say that someone is six feet tall, once you add a number meaning inches to the height but without saying the word “inches”, it always reverts: he’s six foot two. And yet, if you wrote it out in full, it could be feet again: he’s six feet two inches tall. I have no idea why it works like this, but this is the most common pattern here. –  tchrist Sep 20 '12 at 12:33

There is correct English, International English etc. that follows the rules of English, and there is the English that people actually employ in their day to day lives.

Some people like local dialects and some people don't. To say something is 'five pound' rather than 'five pounds' is not a big deal.

Learners of English as a foreign language are always encouraged to use more formal English because it is difficult to use slang correctly.

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Not my downvote, but all varieties of English follow rules. Foreign learners learn not so much formal English as Standard English, which can be both formal and informal. 'Slang' is a special kind of vocabulary, not of grammar. –  Barrie England Sep 18 '12 at 16:11
    
'And he's like, "What's that?" ' is arguably an example of slang syntax, with a 'be like' construction being used in place of a quote verb. –  Edwin Ashworth Sep 18 '12 at 19:08
    
@Barrie England Surely you have heard people use expressions like 'five foot' when they should say 'five feet'. Actually 'five foot is very commonly used. This is a song called six foot down: youtube.com/watch?v=OC1IAA4C5YY –  Robin Michael Sep 19 '12 at 17:08
    
@Robin Michael: Of course I have. I say it myself. Why shouldn't I? –  Barrie England Sep 19 '12 at 17:30

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