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Which of the following is correct?

How come pumpkin noodles is not a thing?

or

How come pumpkin noodles are not a thing?

I want to post one of the above statements to Twitter with a picture of a bowl of pumpkin noodles i.e. the stuff that comes out of a hollowed out pumpkin.

closed as off-topic by Edwin Ashworth, anongoodnurse, Mitch, Chenmunka, tchrist Oct 30 '15 at 23:06

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  • Surely if we are going to get literal with the rules the correct phrase would be "How come pumpkin noodles are not things"? Which makes no sense at all. The second usage in the OP's question will be widely understood as 'correct' since idiomatically 'a thing' means 'an extant class of entity' and therefore 'Pumpkin Noodles' will be understood as a proposed class (Pumpkin) of the entity (Noodles). Or in other words 'how come noodles made of pumpkin do not exist?' – Marv Mills Oct 28 '15 at 15:46
  • Possible duplicate of [Singular] Is/Are [Plural]? – user140086 Oct 28 '15 at 15:49
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    Marv Mills, I disagree. In the sentence above, "a thing" absolutely doesn't refer to "an extant class of entity" it refers to "something that is trending upward in popularity." "A thing" is a specific vernacular phrase. – dwoz Oct 28 '15 at 15:53
  • @dwoz. I think your ascribed meaning is wrong and if you substitute your phrase for 'a thing' in the OP's question then it dramatically changes the meaning of the question. However I agree, of course, that 'A thing' is a specific vernacular phrase (that has arisen fairly recently). – Marv Mills Oct 28 '15 at 15:58
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    @MarvMills, I think the substitution you mention changes the meaning not at all! – dwoz Oct 28 '15 at 16:02
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It is perfectly possible for a plural subject to take the plural verb to be with a single complement e.g.

Jack and Jill are a delightful couple.

Jenny and Miranda are a good doubles team.

The 27 countries of the European Union are a united voice in world trade.

So why not

Pumpkin noodles are a thing.

It also works the other way round:

John is many things to many people.

Later Edit There is a second point at issue here. It concerns whether pumpkin noodles - the subject of the verb is singular or plural. Arguments can be made either way - as with Bacon and eggs are/is on the menu.

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The singular is preferred because you are speaking about the concept of pumpkin noodles, not the actual noodles, and there is only one concept:

How come pumpkin noodles is not a thing?

It's the same reason why "Economics is" is three times more common than "Economics are."

But it would be smoother if you phrased it like so, avoiding the apparent number conflict:

How come the pumpkin noodle is not a thing?

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    I don't think your proposal works. The pumpkin noodle cannot easily refer to the concept of pumpkin noodles. – reinierpost Oct 28 '15 at 17:53
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    Is this different in non-American English? For example, whereas we would say "Metallica is awesome" because "Metallica" is one thing, wouldn't British speakers say "Metallica are awesome" and thus "pumpkin noodles are a thing"? – user2023861 Oct 28 '15 at 18:19
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    @user2023861 No, we wouldn't say pumpkin noodles are a thing for that reason. It works with teams, bands etc. The Beatles were a Liverpool band, but not necessarily with noodles. See my comment below. – WS2 Oct 28 '15 at 20:10
  • The addition of "the" is not standard English. – michael_timofeev Oct 29 '15 at 0:08
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    Economics is a word like physics, linguistics, politics, etc. it's treated as singular...so you can't compare it with noodles. – michael_timofeev Oct 29 '15 at 9:51
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There is a vernacular construction talking about the thingness of various topics of popular conversation, as in:

Is/are X really a thing? = Is there truly a current trend about X? Is X popular right now?

Is/are X still a thing? = Hasn't the hype about X died down?

Why isn't/aren't X a thing? = I think X is cool and everyone should get excited about it!

And, of course, How come? is a slangy term for Why?.

In all of these cases, the slang term is a thing, which is distinctly singular. This vernacular construction is almost never things. (Based on google searches for several constructions.)

That means that any time you're talking about a plural object, the grammar gets tortured a little bit. To a native speaker, the abuse of the language tends to be more painful (and thus, correspondingly less common) if the subject and verb don't agree, and if a plural noun is right next to the word a. Modifiers like really and still act as buffers so that our internal critics don't scream at us as loudly. ;-)

How come "pumpkin noodles" is not a thing?

With quotes to indicate you're considering it as a distinct object, it's marginally ok in vernacular speech but still sounds awkward. It's better if you can rephrase it so that the verb agrees, even though we're still calling it a thing.

Better:

Why aren't pumpkin noodles a thing?

How come pumpkin noodles aren't a thing?

The contraction sounds better to me than "are not" in this case because it's relaxed, vernacular speech, and because we are not emphasizing the negative. I'd use the contraction unless I wanted to negate it and say I don't like pumpkin noodles:

Pumpkin noodles are SO NOT a thing!

To address some of the comments and other answers, if you change a thing to things you are breaking the vernacular construction and are now questioning the existence of the object (or maybe, whether it is person vs place vs thing) and not questioning its popularity. In the context of the question, it would sound like a clumsy attempt at speaking in vernacular.

By the way, this construction is perfectly fine in normal speech, but would not be acceptable in formal writing or speech.

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There is no correct answer here, grammatically speaking. As mentioned before, the choice of singular vs plural is not determined by grammar, but by conceptualization. We should notice that the verb here is the copula, which means it doesn't do anything other than link the two noun phrases. It doesn't contribute anything semantically; it's just a placeholder of sorts. In fact, in many languages the use of the copula is optional, and some just don't have a copula for these types of constructions. Arguing over the correct answer, for me, seems pointless because it doesn't exist.

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