This urgent, grammar-related question comes from Nikita:
What’s the correct way to pluralize “forum”? Overwhelmingly I hear “forums,” but I just read something that used “fora” and now I’m fascinated. What’s your take?
I was pretty certain that this was an issue of common usage, which is to say, the plural of forum is supposed to be fora, but over time, we’ve all just become comfortable using the word forums. I, for one, would not correct a piece that came across my desk to say fora instead of forums.
Digging around for some information, I uncovered Pain in the English, a hard-core discussion site for extreme grammarians. The conversation was pretty much all over the place, even veering into a discussion of the plural form of octopus, but I’m going to try to keep us on track here.
One commenter wrote,
Since hardly anyone actually uses “fora” as the plural of “forum”, I tend to regard it as a bit pretentious when it gets thrown into a conversation.
What rapidly became clear as I read the, oh, five thousand comments generated by the question, was that the rule is inconsistently applied across words that have the same -um ending. For instance, I would say curricula but would also say stadiums.
Well-documented that at times like these I like to turn to the wisdom of Fowler. He divides words that end in -um into three categories:
1. that now always use -ums, either as having completed their naturalization (as it is hoped the rest may do in time); 2. that show no signs at present of conversion but alays use -a; 3 that vacillate, sometimes with a differentiation of meaning, sometimes in harmony with the style of writing, and sometimes unaccountably.
He counts forums in this first category. He concludes sweetly:
In deciding between the two forms for words in the third list, it should be borne in mind that, while anglicization is to be desired, violent attempts to hurry the process actually retard it by provoking ridicule.
So with Fowler’s blessing, I believe that we can safely continue to use forums without fear of ridicule. Cause we wouldn’t want that now, would we?