For a proper noun, in this case let's say Morty, would one replace the "-y" suffix when using the plural case with "-ies" or keep it as an unaltered "-ys"?

  • A proper noun is the name of someone or something, such as "Emilia". Why would you make "Emilia" plural? Please give an example of context where you wish to make "Morty" plural. – TrevorD May 31 '16 at 11:41
  • What or who is "Morty"? Ah, got it - it's a person's name. – BillJ May 31 '16 at 11:50
  • 1
    So the question is, if you have two people who are both called Morty, and you wish to write something which refers to them collectively, would you write 'Mortys' or 'Morties'? Personally I would reword the sentence to avoid the question, if that wasn't possible I'd go for 'Mortys', but I am not aware of any rule which governs the situation. – Spagirl May 31 '16 at 12:07
  • 2
    Would multiple people called Angus be 'Anguses' of 'Angi'? I tend to the view that names are names and ought not to be messed with, so adding something to make a plural seems more respectful than changing something to make a plural. – Spagirl May 31 '16 at 12:09
  • 3
    I agree with Spagirl about not messing with the root name. For example take 'Lily', we would write Lilys, not lilies (as in the flower) – Inazuma May 31 '16 at 12:15

You would never use the "ies" rule with pronouns: use "-s", or "-es" if the word ends in an s.

Also, referring to "Mortys" suggests that the two people involved are a group of some kind: for example, two friends called Morty who often hang out together. For this reason, you would tend to not use this construction in any other context.


"Are the Mortys there yet?"

"Will the Anguses be at the wedding?"

Note that on the face of it this second example sounds like you are talking about the Angus family, not two people called Angus. This perception depends on the commonness of the name Angus as a surname. For example, "Will the Smiths be at the wedding?" sounds even more like you're talking about a family, since "Smith" as a first name is extremely rare, and it's common as a surname (in some countries).

To avoid this confusion when talking about two people whose first name is Morty, a common mechanic is to use the initial of their surnames, or perhaps a nickname, to differentiate them.

EDIT: I just noticed that this question is a semi-duplicate of this one

Pluralization of names

which points out that the "use -es" rule doesn't just apply to names ending in "s" but a variety of other endings which would be hard to say if you just put an "s" after them.

  • There is no shortage of literature that shows this is not the way it has worked historically: you use the same rules for making plurals of nouns no matter whether that noun is proper or common. Biblical scholarship talks about the two Maries (each called Mary) associated with Jesus. There was once a Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, and so and so forth. Writing two ?Sallys for the two Sallies was long considered a mark of poor education and spelling, the kind of mistake that six-year-olds make. – tchrist May 31 '16 at 14:06
  • 2
    "Picniced" is irrelevant, I don't know why you mention that at all. (It's "picknicked" as far as I know, by the way). "The two Besses" fits my explanation, of using "-es" when the singular ends in "S". As for Billies vs Billys, I don't think it's clear cut at all. Do you have a citation for your opinions? If so I'd recommend putting it in an answer. – Max Williams May 31 '16 at 14:24
  • 2
    @tchrist are you sure? There's a heading on that page called "List of Little Italys", while "Little Italies" appears elsewhere. Perhaps it's a matter of preference. – Max Williams May 31 '16 at 14:29
  • 1
    @tchrist I'd assume that a picnic with two Billies was going to involve a lot of hot drinks. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Billycan So I think I would use 'billies' to pluralise the short version of 'billy can' but 'Billys' for the plural of people called Billy. It also turns out that Billy is a word you can only say so many times before your brain disintegrates into a billified mush, billiebibbleblub! – Spagirl May 31 '16 at 15:17
  • 1
    @Spagirl I tried Googleing your idea that proper nouns must not be altered by inflection, but all I found for evidence of it was vague, dubious notions as slippery as a Vaselineed water balloon, and in the end I couldn’t be sure what I found hadn’t been Photoshoped by people who were more interested in Hot™To™Trot Corpo™Branding than they were in respecting the centuries-old standards of English orthographic conventions. (For the rest of us, those boldly verbed words simply have to be Googling, Vaselined, and Photoshopped upon inflection, and anything else is pure Words®Nutz.) – tchrist Jun 1 '16 at 2:50

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