## Is the plural of "popcorn" a used word?

8

Is popcorns a used word, for example in "popcorns are ready"?

If I cook meat rolls, and I want to announce they are ready, I would say "Meat rolls are ready." Can I say the same for popcorn?

1

– bytebuster – 2013-02-08T23:51:44.970

16

Pop­corn is a mass noun, not a count noun.

It’s like rain or snow, or straw or hay, or bar­ley or wheat.

Or corn.

If, for some strange rea­son, you were talk­ing not about corn en masse, but rather about in­di­vid­u­al ker­nels, then you would have a count noun, so you could say that ker­nels were ready in the plu­ral. But oth­er­wise, you would just say that the (pop)corn was ready, in the sin­gu­lar.

• All the pop­corn is done pop­ping.
• All the ker­nels are done pop­ping.

Mass nouns still have plurals unless it's something for which only one kind can conceivably exist. – Joshua – 2016-05-30T02:16:01.983

+1. Note that "corn" being synonymous with "popcorn" is true only in American English (where "Candy Corn" is a common term for sugared popcorn). In British English, Candy Corn is usually called "Sweet popcorn", and "corn" on its own always refers to sweetcorn, never to popcorn. – Matt – 2013-02-09T06:56:37.507

4

@Matt Corn is hardly “synonymous” with popcorn anywhere in North America. Rather, popcorn is merely one type of corn. Sweet corn and field corn are other possibilities. It was the context that made it worked; it is not a general thing. Also, candy corn is a sugary confection here utterly bereft of grain: “Candy corn is made primarily from sugar, corn syrup, wax, artificial coloring and binders.”

– tchrist – 2013-02-10T02:10:48.093

@Matt I think what you call 'sweet popcorn' is what is marketed these days in the US as 'kettle corn'; but it may be a variant of the confection trademarked as Cracker Jack. 'Sweet corn' is that very small part of the crop consumed as a fresh vegetable at the table, immature ears in which the sugars are not yet completely converted to starch and the kernels have not 'dried down'. – StoneyB on hiatus – 2013-02-10T13:01:03.647

12

One might speak of various brands of popcorn or various varieties of popcorn as popcorns:

There are forty different popcorns down at the supermarket.

One might speak of servings of popcorn as popcorns:

I'll have three popcorns, two large Pepsis, and a Baby Ruth. Extra butter on two of the popcorns, please.

But otherwise one speaks of popcorn in the singular, just like rice or chocolate pudding.

not really singular, but a "mass noun" which is neither singular nor plural. – nohat – 2013-02-09T00:11:47.823

2@nohat But it elicits the singular form of the verb. – StoneyB on hiatus – 2013-02-09T00:40:24.313

I'd use 'brands of popcorn', or 'popcorn flavours' in the first example - it's still corn. The second one is cheating because it's a shortcut for saying 'servings of popcorn', but I'd agree with this being about the only valid use. – mcalex – 2013-02-09T03:39:37.727

What's a Baby Ruth? – Matt – 2013-02-09T06:57:43.107

@Matt A kind of candy bar. – StoneyB on hiatus – 2013-02-09T09:22:43.950

The different brands/varieties rule certainly applies for many mass nouns, but sounds very wrong for this one to my ear. I still upvoted you though because when it comes to servings it does sound right. I would recommend reversing their order. – hippietrail – 2013-02-10T12:42:21.830

@hippietrail Plural for varieties probably sounds odd because you haven't encountered it. My ear is inured to it, because my son sold various 'popcorns' for eight years as a Cub/Boy Scout. – StoneyB on hiatus – 2013-02-10T12:49:25.727

-1

I think popcorn can be used in the plural without the s, "the popcorn is ready" would refer to the whole pot. As StoneyB said, it can be used like "rice", "the rice is ready" refers to each grain of rice in the pot.

2This is not a plural. You can use fish or sheep without adding an -s and still be a plural, but popcorn is singular. In fact it has a special quality known as uncountable, mass noun, or non-count. – hippietrail – 2013-02-10T01:17:31.050

1I think I got half of the way to uncountable, but I learned something after other people answered. – Ryan Leonard – 2013-02-10T01:18:48.650

I always wonder if this must be a difficult thing for English learners, because I never seem to have to learn something like it for other languages I'm interested in. – hippietrail – 2013-02-10T01:21:16.153

Well, I answered this the way I answer most questions, not as a linguist, but just as an average native English user, and I just go on my personal assumption that it is "in the plural without the s", which is a "cheat" for uncountable or mass nouns. – Ryan Leonard – 2013-02-10T12:20:07.160

Sorry I think it's not a great idea to spread inaccuracies to inquisitive learners though it's certainly a good idea to try to avoid confusing technical terms and all the terms related to countability are confusing alas )-: – hippietrail – 2013-02-10T12:40:37.447

1Yes, I posted my answer before the technical ones, and I see that I'm wrong now, but I haven't deleted my answer yet, as I was going to wait a day as we were in the middle of a conversation. – Ryan Leonard – 2013-02-10T13:57:25.090