The Great Plural BlackBerry Debate

berries
So what do we call our little devices if we find we have more than one of them? BlackBerries or BlackBerrys?

The stress of it all. This debate has caused some considerable uproar in the office. In fact, an office-wide schism has opened up pitting the cult of “ies” against the “ys” and it threatens to rip asunder the whole CrackBerry.com organization. OK that’s a bit of hyperbole, but we grammar nerds can get a little hot under the collar about such things. So I shall, once and for all, lay to rest the great plural Berry debate.

First up, BlackBerries. Using this form of plural would make sense, because that is what used when describing more than one of the fruit and there is the convention of using ‘ies’ when describing the plural of things ending in ‘y’ that are not preceded by a vowel—strawberries, stories, hobbies, companies. I should also point out that the CBC uses BlackBerries in its text stories. Ditto the BBC and a number of tech websites. 

But what of the idea that BlackBerry is a trademarked name and a proper noun and is thus not subject to the usual ‘ies’ convention? That argument has some supporters such as eWeek and the Guardian newspaper. 

By Kevin Hill on 18 May 2007 02:30 am EDT
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berries
So what do we call our little devices if we find we have more than one of them? BlackBerries or BlackBerrys?

The stress of it all. This debate has caused some considerable uproar in the office. In fact, an office-wide schism has opened up pitting the cult of “ies” against the “ys” and it threatens to rip asunder the whole CrackBerry.com organization. OK that’s a bit of hyperbole, but we grammar nerds can get a little hot under the collar about such things. So I shall, once and for all, lay to rest the great plural Berry debate.

First up, BlackBerries. Using this form of plural would make sense, because that is what used when describing more than one of the fruit and there is the convention of using ‘ies’ when describing the plural of things ending in ‘y’ that are not preceded by a vowel—strawberries, stories, hobbies, companies. I should also point out that the CBC uses BlackBerries in its text stories. Ditto the BBC and a number of tech websites. 

But what of the idea that BlackBerry is a trademarked name and a proper noun and is thus not subject to the usual ‘ies’ convention? That argument has some supporters such as eWeek and the Guardian newspaper. 

Bill Walsh is the Copy Editor at the Washington Post and author of books like ‘Lapsing into a Comma’ and ‘The Elephants of Style,’ and he suggests that proper nouns are not changed when made into a plural, for example he says “it’s Grammys, not Grammies.”

The Canadian Press’s own stylebook also makes that point, but then goes onto say there are exceptions like “Rockies” and “Tommies.” How Canadian.

RIM is no help either. Nowhere do they refer to their devices in the plural, except to call them BlackBerry Wireless Devices or BlackBerry Smartphones. I see the hands of lawyers all over that. Employees of RIM actually refer to them as ‘BBs.’ Grrrrrr.

In Scotland, members of the Scottish Parliament from the Scottish National Party apparently call their BlackBerry devices “Brambles,” which is a British word for a blackberry bush. Perhaps we should all adopt that convention.

And what of CrackBerry? Is that a proper noun now? One assumes it should follow the same convention as BlackBerry.

Finally, I decided on democracy. Yes that great tool of democratic thought, Google, would seal my choice. But, alas, a Google search for both choices showed the world split evenly. BBC, CBC, Mobile Gazette and Computer Weekly on one side eWeek, The Guardian and MSNBC on the other. A little judicious searching also shows that USA Today apparently doesn’t have a copy editor as it has stories featuring both BlackBerrys and BlackBerries. Nice.

So it is decision time. While I have been a champion of ‘BlackBerries’ for purely esthetic reasons, I must cast my lot with Bill Walsh. While technically they are BlackBerry Wireless Devices, the Grammys are also, technically, the Gramophone Awards. So with that, the choice is clear. BlackBerrys it is.

Disagree? Have arguments to the contrary? Go to the CrackBerry forums to vote and have your say.

Topics: Editorial

5 comments

mise

You have missed the point about the Scottish National Party in the Scottish Parliament.They call their Blackberry a 'Bramble', not because it is a 'British' word for a blackberry bush (given their politics, such an allegiance to anything 'British' would be unlikely!), but because it is the word used in Scotland for the blackberry fruit.

DG

Well done article, and I would agree with you, and I will use "Blackberrys" to pluralize the singular.

TryMyMartini

Miss America 2006 was Jennifer Berry. If you visited her family, would you visit the Berries? No, thats just silly, so Blackberries is out. I would visit the Berrys, so I guess I'm a "Blackberrys" type of girl. Some people would say "No, you have to visit the Berry Family!" Those people should have to type "Blackberry Devices" every time.

Go With "Blackberrys" because you have to type one less letter than you do when typing "Blackberries", and Blackberry users are all about efficiency.

Sim

Tolkien couldn't/didn't choose - Is Bilbo right (Proudfoots) or Mr. Proudfoot (Proudfeet)?

There are exceptions for plurals everywhere (goose, gooses, moose, meese....??), but 'Blackberrys' makes the most sense to me, as TryMyMartini comments with the Jennifer Berry thing.

(Oh and yes, bramble is the Scottish AND Northern English word for a blackberry. In the south the bramble is the prickly bit. O the confusion at bramble-picking time.)

Meanwhile, I hope you're right, because me essay marker is like a whole force of grammar police. =)