The other day I loaned an outdoor tool to a friend, and I could not remember what it was called. I asked him, "Would you like to borrow my scissors-things?", showing what I meant. image of Fiskars-brand lopper

(I have since learned that this is known as a "lopper". The round thing is known as a "tennis ball" 😉 included for size comparison.)

As I thought about it later, I wondered if I should have said "scissors-thing" instead of "scissors-things". This is colloquial usage to begin with, so there may not be a correct way to say something incorrectly. Non-colloquially, it probably should have been, "my scissors-like thing". Thus I'm thinking "my scissors thing" would have been better. Is there some sort of rule that would handle colloquial usage of this sort when dealing with singular-plural items such as scissors or pants.

  • Even pluralia tantum are normally singularised when used attributively (and also when used as a derivational base, like when adding -like), so you'd expect scissor-like and scissor thingy. Also, I believe the word you were looking for to use with your neighbour was garden tree branch twig jaw grip scissor tool cutter thingamajig. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Oct 22 '16 at 14:36
  • @JanusBahsJacquet where have you been? No one says "thingamajig" any more. It's "doohickey". Geez. 🙄 Thank you for your response. – RichF Oct 22 '16 at 15:54
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    "Doohickey"?! Sounds too saucy for me. – BladorthinTheGrey Oct 22 '16 at 16:51

Actually, Google Books claims...

a scissor-like device / instrument 36 / 37 hits
a scissors-like device / instrument 3 / 9

...so by extension the natural form for OP's context would a a scissor thing. There's no reason to pluralise things, which would would only have been "justified" by plural scissors anyway.

Personally, I'd call OP's implement loppers (pluralised in much the same way as scissors, except I'd never refer to a pair of loppers). If I wanted to be a bit more vague, I might say Pass me that lopper thingy (or maybe ...those lopper thingies, but never those loppers things).

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  • Thank you for your response.I looked it up, and both "lopper" and "loppers" are used to refer to a single tool. – RichF Oct 22 '16 at 16:01
  • (Geez, I wish <Return> would not auto-complete a comment, and for some reason I could not edit it.) @FumbleFingers I up-voted your answer, but I lack sufficient rep for it to show. I'll have to check out Google Books to find the statistics tool you must have used. Didn't know that was possible. – RichF Oct 22 '16 at 16:07
  • @RichF: Yeah, and by extension from scissors, pliers, etc., I've no doubt lots of people would be happy with a pair of loppers, even if I'm not. But I have a "long pole" instrument in my garden shed that has a short saw-blade as well as cutting pincer jaws on the end. And even though the rod that operates those jaws is broken, we still call that tool loppers, because you can lop off high branches using the saw. – FumbleFingers Oct 22 '16 at 16:11
  • @RichF I can also recommend Google Ngrams for similar analysis. – BladorthinTheGrey Oct 22 '16 at 16:52

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