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Lexical Leavings

by Tom Gally

None of the dictionaries or other language reference books I checked noted the meaning of the "-s" suffix in cases like the following:
Goose believes those two recalcitrant states would feel pressure to commit to a ban when they see dozens of nations coming to Canada to sign a comprehensive ban treaty. "The Chinas and Russias of the world need to see that the international community objects to these weapons of war," he says.

Having achieved oeuvre status now that Touchstone Pictures' 'Jane Austen's Mafia!' is finished, I can finally retire knowing that I rank with the Hitchcocks, the Wilders, and the Spielbergs as one of the handful of truly great filmmakers of all time ... for ever and ever.
The "-s" in "Chinas" does not mean, of course, "more than one country named China"; it means "China and similar countries" or "countries like China." And "the Spielbergs" here certainly does not mean "Mr. and Mrs. Spielberg." This usage of the plural suffix is obscure to many learners of English and should be noted in dictionaries for them.
(March 17, 2003)