What Are the Turning Radii of the new Prii?

Toyota announced this week that it had ended what it called a “decade-long debate” by decreeing that the plural of Prius would be Prii henceforth and to the end of time. Okay, they didn’t say that last part.

Toyota unveiled the winning word at the Chicago Auto Show this morning. Jay Schwartz, head of content for Dictionary.com, was on hand to inform the public that, as the plural of Prius has now been determined, the term 'Prii' will be reflected in Dictionary.com.

After the more than 1.8 million votes were cast during the course of the six-week campaign, Prii beat out its four competitors: Prius, Priuses, Prium and Prien. Prius came in at a close second with 24 percent of the votes.

I can’t decide whether the French Academy should be pleased or will start to clear the ground of its plot at the Panthéon in preparation for turning over in its grave until the end of time.

On the one hand the Academy—the body that insisted for decades that un hot dog be referred to as a chien chaud and that e-mail could only be referred to as courier électronique—should be pleased that the decade-long debate was being resolved by executive fiat.

However, insofar as Toyota ratified the will of 1.8 million voters, instead of relying on its own team of 40 or so Immortals, the Academy would surely see the debate as resolved by the masses at their most revolting.

Ironically, the world seems to be moving away from charming and esoteric plurals in favor of applying the ordinary English rules of pluralization, regardless of a word’s foreign origin.

It’s likely that the 1.8 million are a self-selecting group of language mavens, effete intellectual snobs, and other Latin curricula alumni and alumnae, even as the self-same dictionary.com lists radiuses as an acceptable alternative plural for radius and even prefers memorandums to memoranda.

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