6

When referring to a restaurant specializing in fish and chips would you call it a fish and chip shop or a fish and chips shop?

  • "Fish" is plural like "people". On the other hand if you describe several kinds of fish or people you can use "fishes" and "peoples". – Rusty Core Feb 8 at 18:26
  • @RustyCore we very rarely say "fishes" and I have absolutely never seen a "fishes" shop. – Weather Vane Feb 8 at 18:32
  • Does this mean I'm wrong in describing someone as a meat and potatoes guy? I've always used the the plural potatoes. – Larry Hopkins Feb 8 at 19:06
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    If the term were "fish and chips shop", the extra "s" would decay rapidly because few people would take the time to clearly enunciate it separately from the "s" in "shop". – Boann Feb 8 at 22:35
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    Where I come from (Scotland) - it's a 'chippie'. – Nigel J Feb 9 at 0:58
5

"Attributive nouns" or the first elements of compound nouns tend to be singular in form

There is no absolute rule forbidding the use of a plural noun in the first part of a compound, but it is more usual in general to use the singular form.* "Fish and chip(s) shop" doesn't seem to be an exception to this tendency. The Google Ngram Viewer suggests that both forms exist, but that "fish and chip shop" is more common than "fish and chips shop":

enter image description here

I don't think phonetics is an important factor

Some comments have brought up the supposed phonetic indistiguishability of "fish and chip shop" and "fish and chips shop", but I can't see how that could determine the spelling one way or another: even if it is true that nobody ever pronounces these any differently in practice (which I rather doubt), that wouldn't prevent people from using the spelling "fish and chips shop" for the pronunciation [fɪʃn̩t͡ʃɪpʃɒp]. I think the use of the spelling "fish and chip shop" is based mainly on grammar, not on phonetics.


*Some exceptions to this tendency are mentioned in the answer here: Singular/plural Nouns as Adjectives

  • (1) I believe that phonetics is an important factor.  If we replace “shop” with “restaurant”, the singular version still comes out ahead, but by a much narrower margin (Ngram link, image).  (2) I believe that it is relevant that “fish” is a collective noun and “chip” is not.  You can say “I want to have fish for lunch”, but you wouldn’t say “I want to have chip for lunch”.  … (Cont’d) – Scott Feb 9 at 15:59
  • (Cont’d) …  (3) If I bought a ticket for a Rolling Stones concert, and the event turned out to be a Rolling Stone concert, I would request a refund. – Scott Feb 9 at 15:59
20

It is a "fish and chip" shop, but you order "fish and chips".

Or just a chip shop since they always sell fish too.

In general, a shop selling a product refers to its product as a collective noun in the singular.

Chip shop — sells chips.
Cake shop — sells cakes.
Curtain shop — sells curtains.

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    In the UK I presume. In Canada there are "chip wagons." These are trucks that sell french fried potatoes with gravy and curds. This is extremely popular in Quebec. No fish. It's called "poutine." – puppetsock Feb 8 at 18:49
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    @puppetsock moi, j'ai un "passion de pois". – Weather Vane Feb 8 at 19:05
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    In Canada there are also 'fish and chip shops', and also 'chip trucks' that may sell chips (or fries) with or without cheese curds and gravy. – DJClayworth Feb 8 at 20:34
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    @Mari-LouA "chippy" is still in vogue AFAIK. – Weather Vane Feb 8 at 21:00
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    A singular portion of fish and chips is still just one "fish and chips", so I think your logic could still dictate that "fish and chips shop" is correct. – ESR Feb 9 at 9:28
2

When a noun is used as an adjective, it is almost always the singular form, even when the noun is not normally used as a singular. E.g:

  • car - car alarm
  • house - house key
  • trousers - trouser press
  • spectacles - spectacle maker

But:

  • clothes - clothes line

So, "fish and chips" is the noun phrase, and becomes singular:

  • fish and chips - fish and chip shop
  • "Almost always" may overstate things. A number of exceptions are mentioned in this answer: english.stackexchange.com/a/397244/77227 – sumelic Feb 9 at 0:52
  • @sumelic After reading that answer, I'd still advise using the singular as a rule of thumb. – CJ Dennis Feb 9 at 0:54
  • Right, I agree about that as a rule of thumb, I was just quibbling about the wording "almost always". I'd guess that there are more than a hundred exceptions – sumelic Feb 9 at 0:55
  • @sumelic Mostly always then? ;) – Jason Bassford Feb 9 at 3:18

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