Should ‘Toothpaste’ Be ‘Teethpaste’?

Our universe is plagued with thorny ontological questions. Why does evil exist? Is there existence after death? And the most pressing of them: Why toothpaste and not “toothpaste”?

If what we call the “Toothpaste Logic Mistake” keeps you up all night (on Twitter, direct message us non-stop), let us help you find your rest. .

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Photo: loleah

This doesn’t have to be messy.

Toothpaste For those who may not be sure, it’s a word that refers to a compound or paste used to clean teeth, and that includes scrubs: most of us have more than one tooth to do. clean. Logically, then, it should be toothpaste.

But only by your own logic, and English, as they say, is unplayable. In English, there are many compound nouns where the first noun in the compound word is an object or body part and the second noun in the compound word refers to an agent used, applied or connected. connected to that object or body part. In short, you can translate these compound words as “(second noun) for (first noun).” Toothpaste fit this model, as well as eyeglass, Manicure, Nail scissors, Footwear, earphone, foot warmers, hairbrush, and many others. Because you are a smart person and a careful reader, you will certainly notice the pattern here. Those body parts should be plural, but they are not.

That’s because there’s actually a well-established system that governs how these compounds are formed. The singular is used to refer to the whole in most of these noun + agent compounds. Honestly, they’re much easier said. That’s not just for glasses: bookshelf? car wash? keyboard? dishwashing liquid? Any. Even English has standards.

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It has to be toothpaste? “Should” and “is” are two different things and we only drive trucks in reality. Sorry to all of you toothpaste missionaries out there. Instead, we recommend returning to the problem of evil.

Categories: Usage Notes

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