Saturday, June 19, 2010

Is it Eggs McMuffin or Egg McMuffins?

Forming a satisfactory plural can be harder than you think. Is it Eggs McMuffin or Egg McMuffins?

One the one hand, it looks like a crossover from eggs Benedict--a French construction, I think, like attorneys general. And since it's taking that borrowed form of putting the noun first and the adjective second, then that Frenchy rule should probably apply. And I think it's clear that the egg is a kind of McMuffin, not the McMuffin a kind of egg.

But then on the other hand it seems like the whole item, Egg McMuffin, is tightly glued together, and may actually be a compound noun that is inseparable despite the misleading space--so maybe it's *not* like eggs Benedict and needs to be Egg McMuffins.

So I write them both on a piece of paper and look at them for a long time, and I even go to the McDonald's web site to what Ray Croc (may he rest in peace) thinks it is. The McDonald's people avoid the plural as much as possible, but when they use it they say Egg McMuffins, which doesn't mean it's right, it's just what they say, and in the end I can't decide. But it's an interesting accidental fold in the language, since the two ways of doing it are equally clear and equally valid. That's rare.

(Oddly, the number of eggs in this plural is immaterial--it's always "scrambled eggs" or "eggs Benedict" even if there's only one egg in there. But then when you have eggs for lunch, the rule seems to change--egg salad, for example. That's interesting too.)

I concede that Eggs McMuffin (Egg McMuffins) are weird and oily and not good for your insides, but I had more fun with this chain of thought than I ever have with the web site I manage at work or worrying about whether the hundred-pound gloss I'm using for a print handout is better than the flimsy card stock that costs about the same. This also tells you more about how my brain works than anybody needs to know.

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