Here’s something weird





The first time I noticed someone using “youth” as a plural (meaning “young people,” as opposed to “youths”) was a man in his 50s at a fair in Missoula, Montana in 2012 (he told me:  “it’s ‘many youth’ like ‘many moose’”). The next time was in a recording of Lakota folktales made in 2013 or so (the speaker was also male also sounded 40 or 50). Then, today, I read this news article, which says “

they met with youth participating in project.”

 Obviously there’s at least one typo in that sentence, but a look at the Ngrams confirms that youth is replacing youths. 

Why might this be? Is it just that “youths” is hard to say? And “it’s ‘many youth’ like ‘many moose’” is funny and sticks in the mind? This is quite important 🙂


Possibly a downstream effect of “the youth” referring to the plural form.


There is a problem with the cars of today

There is a problem with the youth of today

There’s something there.

Consider the sentence: “There is a problem with modern youth.” The old interpretation would be “youth=being young,” but the new interpretation is “youth=young people.”

However, nobody has repeated the transformation with other adjective-derived mass nouns like “efficiency” or “stickiness”. In“There is a problem with modern stickiness,” everybody agrees that stickiness=being sticky. Nobody has claimed that stickiness=sticky things. But then again, there’s no such thing as “a sticky.” 

I can’t find a single parallel for the youths=>youth transformation. I’m going mad!

“oh no”

the author said,

and continued:

“I think English might be a degenerate tongue where the words are made up and the grammar doesn’t matter!”

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