Linguistic commentary from a guy who takes things too literally

Beanie Weenies with a Side of Frings

Posted by Neal on May 12, 2005

As if from the depths of a deep-fryer, the issue of frings has resurfaced. In a series of posts last year, I explained why my brother and my dad were totally off-base in according legitimacy to frings, a portmanteau word referring to a mixture of french fries and onion rings. In short, it was because frings was “a plural noun which could denote a mass of stuff, but whose singular form didn’t denote anything.” Pick up any item from a pile of frings, and you won’t have a fring. It will be either a fry or a ring.

In subsequent comments and discussions, similar cases were brought up as possible precedents for this word:

  1. Words such as scissors, pants, politics. Unlike frings, however, these words can refer to single items. That is, though these words are all morphologically plural, only frings must be semantically plural, referring as it does to a collection of items.

  2. Words such as rapids. These are morphologically and semantically plural, but unlike with frings, it is still possible to imagine a meaning for the singular noun rapid if a speaker were to use such a form. Again, there is no such thing as a single fring. It’s either a fry or a ring.
  3. Words such as clothes. This is morphologically and semantically plural, but unlike with frings, the singular form doesn’t even exist. Even though you can readily conceive a meaning for the nonexistent singular noun *clothe, you have to say it as article of clothing. In contrast, fring sounds just fine, but doesn’t have a meaning.

Finally, though, I accidentally found another frings-type word myself: stoplight peppers. Choose any bell pepper out of a package labeled “stoplight peppers,” and it will be either a red, yellow, or green bell pepper. Only when the three come together can they be referred to in the plural as stoplight peppers. Naturally, once I identified this example, I withdrew my long-standing objection to frings.

Now I thought we had all moved past this issue, but it seems that Glen was not entirely satisfied. In this post, my gracious concession is deemed “grudging,” and my deciding example is “questionable,” while his own naive examples have become “excellent.” What prompts such an attack? Let’s see:

But now I see the opportunity to convert my TKO into a KO. You see, while DGM refers to the delicacy in question as ‘beanie-weenie,’ in Neal’s and my home–and I suspect in many parts of the country–the dish is called ‘beanie-weenies.’ It’s morphologically plural (‘beanie-weenies’ has a standard plural ending), it’s syntactically plural (you would say, “My beanie-weenies are getting cold”), and there’s no such thing as a lone ‘beanie-weenie’ (it’s always a bean or a weenie).

Yes, it’s true. There’s no such thing as one beanie-weenie. And furthermore, I’m pretty sure the term predates frings. So yes, beanie-weenies and stoplight peppers can both join frings to populate the class of morphologically and semantically plural words with no meaning for the singular.

Still and all, I have to say that I’m very disappointed in Glen’s attitude. He even concluded his argument with, “Take that, Neal!” Glen, Glen, Glen, it’s not about who’s right or wrong here. You and I are working together in our search for the truth!

Which reminds me: Glen states that this picture was taken on Christmas Day. Well, it wasn’t taken on Christmas day! It was taken on December 28th.

2 Responses to “Beanie Weenies with a Side of Frings”

  1. Ingeborg S. Nordn said

    See my comment to the Beanie-Weenie post on Agoraphilia; don’t worry, I haven’t taken sides. 🙂

  2. dgm said

    ha! boy neal, you fixed his little red wagon.

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