What's So Wrong With Saying "Vinyls"?

25 January 2016, 16:55 | Updated: 8 May 2017, 17:09

gerard way vinyl asset
Woodrow Whyte

By Woodrow Whyte

Grammar police launch petition to stop people saying "vinyls"

Their are few greater pleasures in life than discovering you're friend is a fully signed up member to the grammar police, and then deliberately igniting they're wrath further by using very poor grammar as we have done multiple times in this sentence already. 

Okay, we'll stop, before you throw your phone against the wall. The point is people get irrationally angry about this stuff.  


It turns out that the punctuation po-po have found a new cause for concern. Chief lieutenant of pedants, Joey Sweeney, started a petition two weeks ago against people using vinyls instead of vinyl, which is believed by many to be the grammatically correct option.

On the petition, Sweeney makes some demands. "Say "records." Say "LPs." F**k it, even say "wax." But not "vinyls." C'mon. No."

In fact, this is not a new debate. It has been raged over repeatedly by music fans and linguistic specialists, the two groups bonded by their mutual appreciation for semantical debates and Captain Beefheart b-sides. But a petition, really? Surely we've got better things to be doing with our time?

The target of much of this ire is young music fans. As the Washington Post described, the explosion of vinyl sales in the last few years has been fuelled by a renewed interest in the format by teenagers and young adults. "That means something once practically obsolete has become brand new to a generation of music enthusiasts and they’re using their English-speaking instincts to talk about it."

The thought process behind vinyls is simple enough. "If you enjoy listening to music on the cassette format, you collect cassettes. If you enjoy listening to music on the CD format, you collect CDs. And if you enjoy listening to music on the vinyl format, you collect vinyls, right?" 

There is a very obvious argument against this petition. Language is defined by how people use it. It changes over time and, as a result, meanings evolve. If lots of people start using vinyls to mean the plural of vinyl, then it gains legitimacy, no matter how many angry petitions you sign. 


But maybe linguistic science is in favour of vinyls after all. Writing on his blog, Language Log, famous linguist Mark Liberman wrote that adding an 's' to "mass nouns" like vinyl, which usually don't need the extra 's', is in fact grammatically correct. He gives other examples of mass nouns like beers, cheeses, glasses to demonstrate that it is a permissible addition in certain contexts.

Liberman concludes, "the plural of vinyl is 'vinyl'" is an invented "rule", more or less the opposite of the general patterns in the language, which a convinced minority has promoted to the point where "people are tarred and feathered for saying 'vinyls'" in some settings. This is an unusually pure case of peevological emergence, without either tradition or logic on its side, and also (as far as i can tell) without any single authoritative figure behind the idea."

Ouch! So there you have it. I guess we'll be using vinyls guilt-free from now on. But what do you think?