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On the stackexchange site WordPress Answers, we recently discussed the plural form, or whether one exists at all, of the system we all use.

WordPress is a free and open source blogging tool and a content management system (CMS). In more colloquial terms it is a software application or "program".

Initially, I suggested that analogously to "press" and its two-word-companions such as "bench press" the plural ought to be "WordPresses".

Another user argued, that it was a singular without a plural, since it is a trademarked name of the WordPress Foundation and hence any alteration of it would be a fork (programming terminology).
The latter is obviously for one correct and for another in the realm of our expertise and not to be discussed here.

Still, initially I contested the earlier, since I thought I could for instance order "Two Pepsis" or "Two Cokes" (synonymical to "Two bottles/cans of [...]") in a restaurant and inline with that "WordPresses" would not have to mean "the system and a smiliar one (i.e. a fork)" but could refer to "several installations of WordPress".
A third user added that that might be misused in spoken language frequently, but that it would be correct to order "Two Pepsi" only and that that term didn't have a plural either. That still felt wrong to me, but thinking about it further, I concluded that you'd never order "Two Guinnesses", but "Two Guinness" instead and that hence that must hold true for Coke and Pepsi as well - and because of that ultimately for the initial term (WordPress) also.

They almost have me convinced, but whatever the correct way, this has sparked my (and likely our) interest and I'd like to get a definitive answer on this one. Hence I am asking you guys and girls here. Shed some light for the IT nerds, please: Do product names have plurals or not? Or, if this can't be answered categorically with yes or no, in which cases do plurals exist and in which do they not?

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You have said what WordPress is: it's software. Is there such a thing as a WordPress? "I implemented my blog as a WordPress." I don't believe so: it's using WordPress or even on or in WordPress, but not as a WordPress. –  Andrew Leach Nov 29 '12 at 8:14
    
The linked thread appears to deal with the possessive form rather than the plural form. Your question is currently unclear. –  coleopterist Nov 29 '12 at 8:17
    
Too true, there is no such thing as a WordPress. There is only an installation of it or in more general terms, an instance of it. So I guess, it is indeed a singular without a plural? Downvote(s) on the question or not, could you add this as an answer so I can accept it as correct? And does that go for "Coke" and "Pepsi" as well (I specifically meant to not ask a duplicate, not only for reasons of stackexchange mechanics, but because I want to know). –  Johannes Pille Nov 29 '12 at 8:17
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@coleopterist Nope, it doesn't. That impression of yours stems from yet another misconception of the original asker on our site. Plus, I linked that for the sake of completeness - please consider my question here - and again I would like to know the general answer for product names, maybe I ought to not even have put WordPress in the question title. –  Johannes Pille Nov 29 '12 at 8:34
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For what it's worth, I haven't downvoted the question. –  Andrew Leach Nov 29 '12 at 10:25

3 Answers 3

up vote 13 down vote accepted

Whether there is a plural form depends entirely on whether there is actually a singular form.

In the case of WordPress, there isn't a singular form. You don't say “I implemented my blog as a WordPress.” It’s using WordPress or even on WordPress or in WordPress, but not as a WordPress.

Consequently there is no plural form.

This doesn't apply to all trademarked names, though. One may very well talk about Compaqs or Pepsis or Hoovers or even Guinnesses and Tumblrs. All of these have a singular form — a Compaq [computer]; a [drink made by] Pepsi; a [vacuum cleaner made by] Hoover; a [proprietary drink made by] Guinness; a [blog built on] Tumblr.

Additionally, it probably depends to some extent on how euphonious the plural form (if there might be one) actually is. Even though one might talk of a Kleenex for a tissue, a few Kleenexes is unlikely to occur. WordPresses may well fall into that category as well as the “no plural” category, even if Guinnesses does not.

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Kleenices, possibly? –  StoneyB Nov 29 '12 at 11:37
    
I still think that the plural of spouse should be spice...! –  Bill Michell Nov 29 '12 at 12:54
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Perhaps it's a Midwest US thing, but it is absolutely not uncommon in this area to hear, "would you pass me a few kleenexes?" (Though it is equally likely to hear, "pass me some kleenex.") –  Chip Bennett Nov 30 '12 at 0:44

I think there is a fundamental misconception here about the “rules” of English (or any other language). They aren’t regulations; they’re rules-of-thumb which tell you “do it this way and you are unlikely to be misunderstood.”

There are rules which tell you how to construct a regular plural of a singular noun. By analogy with other words whose singular ends in -ess, the plural of WordPress would be WordPresses. If you write WordPresses the “natural” (meaning “conventional”) parsing would understand this to be the plural of WordPress.

That rule, however, does not prohibit you from forming the plural otherwise. You may, if you like, write of three WordPress or three WordPressi or three WordPrexx. If your plural is understood by your readers, and is taken up by your readers, used by them, becomes the standard, the regular-plural-in-es rule will not smack you down. It will simply shrug and move on. You and your readers will have written a new rule, which is exactly as valid as any other rule in the rulebook: the plural of WordPress is WordPressi, or whatever you all use.

Likewise, that rule does not tell you what the plural of WordPress means. That’s a different set of rules. The analogy with Coke and Toyota gives a rule that WordPresses is likely to be understood if used to designate units of purchase or consumption. The analogy of Hamlet and Frankenstein gives a rule that WordPresses is likely to be understood if used to designate distinct editions or versions.

But those rules do not impose those meanings, or preclude others. That’s up to you and your fellow users. If you choose to use WordPresses to designate multiple purchases, or multiple versions, or multiple installations, or anything else where you feel a plural is called for, then whichever of these uses your readers understand and adopt in their own use becomes a meaning of WordPresses. You and your readers will have written a new rule, which is exactly as valid as any other rule in the rulebook.

When you do so you will undoubtedly encounter opposition from people who don’t understand how languages work—who sniff and whimper that you’re “bastardizing the English language”. That’s fine. They’re users, too; they get a vote, just like you.

I don’t get a vote now; but if tomorrow I decide to start a blog using WordPress, and I come over to wordpress.SE and start reading and posting, I will have become a citizen of that particular linguistic community and I will get a vote, too.

The WordPress Foundation may have something to say, and they get lots of votes, because they publish so much and have so many readers.

ELU, however, doesn’t get a vote. Merriam-Webster doesn’t get a vote. The OED doesn’t get a vote. None of these is a user; they just report the election results.

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You certainly have my vote, cause it caters to my interpretation. And because it tackles the issue on a meta-level, which is by itself interesting, but I guess I'll still accept that commonly a plural wouldn't exist. Still very nice to see that even among you experts this isn't 100% clear. And truly an interesting quest for me personally, since for once it involves "real" language (as opposed to programming languages). Thanks guys! –  Johannes Pille Nov 29 '12 at 11:33
    
@JohannesPille Except for having a lot of redundancy, which creates enormous flexibility, natural languages aren't all that different from programming languages, once you count in all the algorithms and libraries and successful applications. Rules = Use. –  StoneyB Nov 29 '12 at 11:45

The term WordPress is a trademark; as such, I view it not as a noun but rather as an adjective, and therefore neither singular nor plural. It is a proper name that describes a software script.

The use of the term as an adjective also applies to the example: "I have two WordPress installations," or, "my server runs two WordPress instances."

The use of the term as an adjective also fits well with the cola analogy, and the trademarks Pepsi and Coke: "I would like two Pepsi colas, please," or, "I would like to Coke drinks, please." In these cases, Pepsi and Coke are adjectives that describe a particular beverage.

In the case of Coke, Pepsi, and Toyota, the trademark is being commoditized or genericized, such that the trademark becomes synonymous with a good or service. (For example: we all use kleenex rather than facial tissue; residents of Atlanta order cokes, not sodas; and Brittish housekeepers hoover, rather than vacuum, the carpet.)

In such cases, the trademark becomes a synonym of the noun that it formerly described (or the verb that defines the action performed by that noun, such as hoovering) - usually accompanied by referring to the term in lowercase, rather than capitalized (Kleenex/kleenex, Coke/coke, Hoover/hoover).

As popular as WordPress is, it has not reached the point of being commoditized; as such, I would continue to treat it as an adjective.

That said, a non-trivial segment of users - likely, comprised of the same people who refer to having a facebook, or a twitter, or a tumblr - view WordPress as a noun, and refer to having a wordpress. In such cases, I would consider the wordpress to be the hosted, served, running script; i.e. not merely the software script itself, but the resultant application comprised of the WordPress software script, the LAMP stack, the server hosting it all, and the browser rendering the output. At that point, I would consider that application to be commoditized - similarly with Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc. - to the point of being synonymous with the application itself. Thus, in such cases, I would consider "WordPress" to be a noun, for which the proper plural would be WordPresses.

And as someone who still views WordPress as the trademarked name of a software script, that makes me cringe even more than hearing someone talk about their "facebook" or their "twitter".

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