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Who was that masked e-mailer?

Posted by Jan Freeman, keep until April July 5, 2008 05:15 PM

After I used the word "e-mails" in a recent column, an e-mail arrived from someone identified only as limblob@isga.com:

I'm only in the 6th grade, but it made me laugh to see you use e.-mails for more than one. Even our class knows that mail can be used as either singular or plural. My friend says that you should use e- mail messages for multiple. Sorry to be a pain.

But I didnít bother replying, because Iíve tried that already -- back in December, when "limblob" sent me a nearly identical rebuke:

I'm only in the 5th grade, but it made me laugh to see you use e.-mails for more than one. Even our class knows that mail can be used as singular or plural. My friend says that you should use e.-mail messages for multiple.

On that occasion, I tried to send the eager young scholar a copy of a Word column from 2004 in which I discussed whether "e-mail" had to follow the model of "mail." But my attempt came back as undeliverable. Looking a bit further, I learned that "Limblob" is a rude nickname for Rush Limbaugh.

It seems unlikely that a sixth-grader would adopt a disparaging nickname for himself and send out unanswerable e-mails (yes, e-mails!). But then, it seems unlikely anyone else would do it, too. I would have thought an everyday e-mail pseudonym would be more than enough anonymity for a discussion of English plurals. But maybe I donít understand true paranoia.

Anyway, "limblob," if youíre out there, please take a look at my column on ďe-mails." And write again sometime -- with a return address.

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Rules and realities of English usage from Boston Globe Ideas columnist Jan Freeman.
Jan Freeman, a former Boston Globe editor, has been writing the weekly column ďThe WordĒ since 1997. E-mail her at freeman@globe.com.
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