2

Growing up in the US, I was taught to say "math" and the British "maths" sounded very awkward to me until I noticed mathematics had an 's' at the end, and it occurred to me that it could be considered plural. (To any British reading this, we use the full word "mathematics" in a singular sense also.) I suppose from this perspective, algebra is a math, calculus is a math, topology is a math, etc., though it seems to me that a Brit doing only algebra would still say they are doing maths.

From this new perspective, it occurred to me that physics must be plural as well, but I suppose it would be more granulated. The various physical phenomena themselves (comparable to theorems I suppose) would be too "small" to constitute a single subject (comparable to algebra), and various related phenomena would be grouped together into subjects for study and specialization. (Perhaps this is why we both abbreviate it as the plural physics ... er, wait.)

I looked around for other examples of singular vs plural fields of study and couldn't find much. Biology, chemistry, history, etc. all seem to be singular and follow a different naming pattern. One can study art, or study the arts, and an expert in the field might care about the distinction.

So here's what I'm wondering. Are there other good examples of plural fields of study, especially ones that in various nations (Australia, English as used in India(?), ...) are treated differently with respect to singular/plural?

If someone can publish one comprehensive answer, that would be great, but otherwise I'm guessing the localized info will trickle in from many different people, in which case this will probably work better as a community wiki where we can edit all the various information into one good answer.

2

'Mathematics' is defined thus at Collins:

mathematics n

  1. (Mathematics) (functioning as singular) a group of related sciences, including algebra, geometry, and calculus, concerned with the study of number, quantity, shape, and space and their interrelationships by using a specialized notation

  2. (Mathematics) (functioning as singular or plural) mathematical operations and processes involved in the solution of a problem or study of some scientific field

RHK Webster's concurs.

There is no rule as to how abbreviations must be formed. For instance, 'Buckinghamshire' is usually shortened to 'Bucks'. In the US, the word 'mathematics' is usually shortened to 'math', whereas in the UK, it is usually shortened to 'maths'.

When it comes to 'statistics', there is a common count noun usage. Thus the mean is one statistic; standard deviation and variance are two other statistics. For the field, singular concord is used though the noun derives from the plural. I believe that people in the US and Canada mostly use 'stat' as the abbreviation, whereas in the UK it's 'stats'. I seem to remember that most Canadians use 'maths', however!

  • As a Canadian (who also consumes a lot of US media), I have never heard "stat" as an abbreviation for "statistics." It is always "stats." Similarly, no one in Canada (except perhaps those recently arriving from a UK-English-speaking country) uses "maths" as an abbreviation for "mathematics." It is always "math". – GentlePurpleRain Apr 25 '18 at 15:48
  • 'Stat' is the usual contraction in the US for statistics (the field). You could well be right about the situation in Canada. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 25 '18 at 21:31
1

The abbreviations "stat mech" and "stat mechs" for statistical mechanics are both found by Google. I haven't analyzed the results to see whether there is a U.S./U.K. difference, although both abbreviations can be found associated with both countries.

1

Consider "sport" vs. "sports" when making reference to the general activity.

There's an AmE/BrE difference between saying "He is good at sports" and "He is good at sport," or saying "He studies sports" and "He studies sport."

The former is shared in both AmE and BrE, whereas the latter is a lot more typical of BrE.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.