Plural of Guinness

Posted by jerry on August 17th, 2004 — Posted in Journal, Travel, Writing

Now here’s a debate that has been raging all over the net – when you order more than one pint of Guinness (as one often does!) there is always that slight awkward pause – especially for a linguist like myself – as to the correct word to use. My first inclination, and the version I use probably more often than not is to refer to multiple Guinnaeii. This usually gets a reaction varying between a laugh and a raised eyebrow, preparatory to someone about to … er… offering an alternative form of the noun.

And as I think it through I would have to ask myself about the derivation of the word – clearly, if it had a Latin derivation then I might be quite close to the mark with Guinnaeii. This might even work with a Greek derivation (not sure about that). But we are not actually talking about a class of drink, which may have latin or greek roots in the phonemes. Instead, we are dealing with a brand name, a proper noun. For this reason I would probably avoid the ‘sheep’ example which would make it multiple Guinness. As a proper noun I suspect it would be like the plural of Jones – making it Joneses – and in this case I would suggest that the plural form Guinnesses would in fact be the most ‘correct’ for traditional grammarians. I suspect this one would also win on the basis of usage, although I have not taken a survey on this. Of course you can always avoid any confusion by referring to ‘pints of Guinness’.

So there you have it – and while you’re there perhaps you can make it a couple of Guinnesses for me too!
And if you are in Ireland you would naturally avoid the English language as much as possible, so you would order thusly: “Piont (leath-phiont) Guinness led’ thoil”



Comment by Weston

I would first like to congratulate you on your brief, yet enjoyable, entry into the fray. I too came to the conclusion that the plural of Guinness should be Guinnesses, no matter how unwieldy. My last name is Williams, and having more than one of us around can put one in mind of a snake pit.

I do have to take issue with your use of the reflexive pronoun “myself”, as in “a linguist like myself”. Though strictly a grammatical mistake, it is at least a rather handsom reminder of the correct usage, “a linguist like me”, as the former might be considered a bit of a contradiction.

Again, thank you for providing some illumination on the plural of Guinness.

Posted on February 25, 2006 at 1:03 am

Comment by jerry

Thanks Weston – yes I used the ‘myself’ as it seemed to have better resonance, rather than the grammatically correct ‘me’


Posted on February 25, 2006 at 4:45 pm

Comment by Servalan

I don’t think anybody in Ireland would ask a barman for ‘Guinnesses’. It’s two, three, four (or whatever) pints of Guinness. (And a half-pint isn’t a half: it’s a glass.)

Posted on August 23, 2011 at 3:31 am

Comment by Jacko

I spent significant time all over Ireland this summer. The correct answer to your query is “guinnei” as in Cactus — > Cacti

Posted on February 14, 2014 at 9:24 am

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