I confess to having the pedantic hangup of refusing to use email as a count noun, but it's a lost cause.

Over the past week I've been working on a modeling and simulation proposal, and I've noticed that the M&S community seems to find code as a count noun to be acceptable usage, e.g.,

Conservative codes adopt the approach of …

What are the rules that make conversions from mass noun to count noun grammatical? How about the other direction, of which I'm having a hard time producing an example?

Related Questions
Explanation for “emails”?
Is it wrong to use the word "codes" in a programming context?

  • 2
    There are no "rules". Someone somewhere starts saying something, and it either catches on or it doesn't. See When does a mistake become standard usage?, Descriptivism and widespread misspelling, When does a word become a 'word'?, Regulatory bodies and authoritative dictionaries for English.
    – RegDwigнt
    Commented Jun 26, 2011 at 12:27
  • 1
    In the case of 'codes' to mean algorithms/libraries I think it's older than the singular use of source code. At least in academic use
    – mgb
    Commented Jun 26, 2011 at 12:57
  • 1
    I have no idea who "the M&S community" are, but unquestionably the EL&U community does not accept the pluralisation of "codes" as per OP's example. Commented Jun 26, 2011 at 12:59
  • 1
    @Kosmonaut: On the linked question it seems to me only one answer says that "codes" is acceptable, and that answer has 5 votes. All other answers (with 74 upvotes in total) seem to me to be saying this usage is incorrect. Commented Jun 26, 2011 at 15:59
  • 1
    @FumbleFingers: Heh, so there was a vote I wasn't aware of. (Didn't notice that link the first time around :)
    – Kosmonaut
    Commented Jun 26, 2011 at 16:25

1 Answer 1


Depending from the context, codes is a used word. Looking at the Corpus of Contemporary American English, I can find the following sentences.

In Congress, it presents itself in massive legislation, acts and codes thousands of pages long and so monstrously overcomplicated that no human being possibly can read through them - much less understand them or apply them justly to a people who increasingly feel like they no longer are being asked, but rather told.

After the job was completed, an inspector visited and described a scenario in which a child might climb the spindles as if they were a ladder and tumble to the ground. Lesson Learned: Read codes carefully—meeting them is the homeowner's responsibility, and just because a plan is approved, it doesn't mean it meets code.

Using C-based programming codes, the DM-225i series converts motion commands directly to motor currents. The driver includes circuitry required for I/O, communications, and encoder feedback as well as C/C++ motion-control library functions, designed to operate in real time or as a stand-alone configuration, DM-225i can be used in conjunction with a control IBM PC or compatible or as a runtime system without a PC.

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    The first two are perfectly reasonable uses of the codes, and an example citing 'codes and ciphers' would be fine too. Using 'codes' to refer to programs is a ghastly neologism (it seems to have become prevalent in the last couple of years - but that probably means I wasn't paying attention to the right (wrong?) places previously. I would serious object to the last paragraph as 'good English' for the misuse of 'codes'. Commented Jun 27, 2011 at 6:36

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