6

When I read some of these Winnie the Pooh stories to my kids at night, the place where the story takes place is the Hundred Acre Wood, not Hundred Acre Woods.

Why is that?

11

Winnie the Pooh was written by an English author, and thus follows the British English usage that wood is both plural and singular.

Apparently woods is an American construction. In fact, I can't verify that woods is a really a word, but it certainly sounds like one to my American ear.

  • In the World English Dictionary section of this page, there is "closely packed trees forming a forest or wood, esp a specific one". – Kosmonaut May 20 '11 at 19:24
  • 2
    Yes, "woods" is a word, "There are many different woods. Oak, maple, and larch are three of them." – Viktor Haag May 20 '11 at 19:38
  • @Kosmonaut Isn't the World English Dictionary written by Encarta? That would explain woods. @Viktor I meant that as a playful reference to the ambiguous grammaticality of the word. – HaL May 20 '11 at 20:11
  • granted, and understood; I thought it warranted an example of how it could be used differently to the main context of discussion. – Viktor Haag May 20 '11 at 20:29
6

Wood and woods are interchangeable.

wood |woŏd|
noun
2 (also woods) an area of land, smaller than a forest, that is covered with growing trees : a thick hedge divided the wood from the field | a long walk in the woods.

from NOAD

EDIT: According to @HaL, wood is standard in BrE and would have thus been used by A. A. Milne, an English author.

(In AmE, we do indeed often use woods)

  • "walk in the woods" is the only example I can think of for 's' in BE. Otherwise "woods" would mean a range of different species of wood as a material. – mgb May 20 '11 at 19:43
3

This is hard to explain, but I would say, as a British speaker, that 'woods' has the flavour of a mass noun, whereas 'wood' is a count noun. When you're talking about a specific small forest, it's a wood - Hundred Acre Wood, Bricket Wood, St John's Wood, Highgate Wood, South Norwood, Goodwood, etc. But if you're talking about some indeterminate patch of trees, it's woods - you might be lost in the woods, strolling around the woods, not be out of the woods yet, etc. Perhaps it's a wood when seen from the outside, but woods when seen from the inside.

Having said that, where i grew up, we used to play in Wivenhoe Woods. Googling, i do find lots of references to Wivenhoe Wood, but the usage i heard was definitely plural, and that usage also finds attestation on the internet. The nearest big supermarket back then was at Highwoods. Perhaps this is an Essex quirk; it wouldn't be the only one.

  • Just what I was going to say. And emphasise that "woods" is a mass noun: "a woods" is not normal in British English, though I understand it is in US. – Colin Fine May 21 '11 at 0:35
  • @Colin: I think Americans would be more likely to say "some woods" rather than "a woods" when talking about what would be "a wood" in British English. However, this changes when we add an adjective, we would definitely say "a small woods", for example. – Peter Shor May 21 '11 at 1:17
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    @Peter: Careful with that "we". "A small woods" sounds odd to me. – Tom Anderson May 21 '11 at 9:44
  • @Tom: Okay, some Americans would say "a small woods." (you can use Google to check that it's not just me). What would you call the thing called "a small wood" in British English? – Peter Shor May 21 '11 at 9:52
  • @Peter: I'd call it a small wood. Or a large copse. – Tom Anderson May 21 '11 at 10:10

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