Sasquatch Coffee

Bigfoot, Not Bigfeet!

Posted by: Loren Coleman on April 21st, 2006

Please avoid letting me hear “Sasquatches” too!

:-)

No, no, no “Bigfeet” allowed in here.

Some nouns, particularly the names of animals and fish, have the same form in singular and plural. Historically and grammatically correct is the word “Bigfoot” for singular and plural, just as “sheep” means one sheep and two or more sheep.

There are a number of animals that have the same singular and plural form, for example:
antelope – antelope
buffalo – buffalo
bison – bison
mink – mink
otter – otter
bass – bass
deer – deer
moose – moose
swine – swine
pike – pike
trout – trout
goldfish – goldfish
species – species
sheep – sheep

The singular and plural use of “fish – fish” is tricky, however. If you have one type of fish, you have many fish in a school, a bowl, or a pond, for example. If you have a tank full of a variety of species of fish, you have an aquarium full of several fishes.

Within cryptozoology, North American hominoid cryptids typically follow the same irregular plural rule as the above animal words, including:
Bigfoot – Bigfoot
Sasquatch – Sasquatch
Momo – Momo

There are other cryptid names that also follow this pattern, such as:
Mothman – Mothman
Nessie – Nessie
Cassie – Cassie
Tessie – Tessie
Champ – Champ

You can usually immediately tell the articles and books that are written by those people who are unfamiliar with the field of cryptozoology, Bigfoot studies, hominology, and Sasquatch pursuit by their use of such incorrect and uncomfortable plural forms such as “Bigfoots,” “Bigfeet,” “Bigfeets,” “Sasquatches,” and “Big Feet.” All are incorrect, based on common grammatical usage and practice in our field, which follows rules as with the above irregular plural forms, often seen applied to animals.

Plural forms, nevertheless, do follow other common usage rules among some cryptids, for example, singular – plural
Yeti – Yeti or Yetis
Abominable Snowman – Abominable Snowmen or Abominable Snowpeople
Loch Ness Monster – Loch Ness Monster or Loch Ness Monsters

The conforming of practice as applied by native speakers is evolving when its translation into common English usage may be in flux. For example, while one Yowie may be seen, it is fairly common to talk about two or more Yowies. However, presently, use of the plural from of Yeren is still confusing. Is more than one Chinese Wildman called two or more Yeren or two or more Yerens? Thusfar, the preferred form has been without the “s” as in, “He was hot on the track of the three Yeren seen down by the stream.”

The International Society of Cryptozoology established a “manual of style” for the use of capitalization among cryptids, by the way, which I have been using and reproducing in my books, for years. Even though the ISC is defunct, the style lives on and continues in practice.

Here is what I have written on this subject in my books, combining below what I have written on various cryptids:

The style of this work and the use of capitalization for the undiscovered cryptids under discussion (e.g., Bigfoot, Yeti, Loch Ness Monster, Ogopogo, Nahuelito, Bunyip), follows the “manual of style” that was adopted by the International Society of Cryptozoology’s editor, Richard Greenwell, and the ISC scientific peer-reviewed journal, Cryptozoology. Greenwell details the proper capitalization of the cryptozoological names, before and after discovery, in a footnote in Cryptozoology, Vol. 5 (1986), page 101. His formalization of this matter is furthermore based on what occurs in systematic zoology, firm ground indeed.

Greenwell is very clear in his example:

Native name: okapi;
Western name for presumed, undiscovered animal: Okapi;
Common name after discovery and acceptance: okapi.

For our extended use, this translates into:

Native name: yet-teh or yeti;
Western name for presumed, undiscovered animal: Yeti;
Common name after discovery and acceptance: yeti.

Native name: oh-mah,.
Western name for presumed, undiscovered animal: Bigfoot;
Common name after discovery and acceptance: bigfoot.

Native name: nahuelito;
Western name for presumed, undiscovered animal: Nahuelito;
Common name after discovery and acceptance: nahuelito.

and

Native name: naitaka;
Western name for presumed, undiscovered animal: Ogopogo;
Common name after discovery and acceptance: ogopogo.

Therefore, as Lake Monster, Sea Serpent, Nessie, Bigfoot, Yeti, and related forms all have not been technically “accepted” by systematic zoology, as of this date, the capitalized form will be employed.

In terms of the plural form of the above words and the capitalization of cryptid names, I follow these rules in a strict fashion to give a common application of this rule to my written work.

So if you hear or read of someone saying “Bigfeet,” you know they probably don’t know what they are talking about in terms of Sasquatch and other matters of cryptozoology.

Thanks to Doug Tarrant of Virginia City, Nevada, for asking the question that inspired me to write what my understanding is on this subject.

About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013.


21 Responses to “Bigfoot, Not Bigfeet!”

  1. Roger Knights responds:

    I agree with you about the capitalization, and think it is a pity your argument hasn’t had more impact. Nowadays there’s no extra work in hitting the shift key to capitalize a word that is commonly used, since Microsoft Word’s Autocorrect feature can change an uncapitalized version (or an abbreviation like “bf”) to a capitalized one.

    But there’s not such an open-and-shut case regarding pluaralization. Ivan Sanderson lamented “journalists’ practice” of using “Bigfoot” as a collective term, since it conveyed the impression to the unwary that there was only one animal running around making tracks. So he used “Bigfeet” as the plural (in a chapter title no less—on p. 98) in his Abominable Snowmen (1961). I wonder if, after B-Day, Science will return to his style of pluralization; it has a claim based on priority. The use of “Bigfoot” as a plural is defended by analogy to “moose,” which serves for both. But what about “goose,” whose plural is “geese”? And what about “foot,” whose plural is “feet”? I think violating the usage established for “foot/feet” serves mainly as a sort of marker or “shibboleth” of insider-hood at present.

  2. Ole Bub responds:

    A question regarding cryptic nomenclature….if there are several subspecies adapted to regional climate and habitats….might there be Bigfeet…rather than a gaggle, herd or mob of Bigfoot?

    I’m proud I can spell Sasqwatch…ole bub ain’t cyphering no bigfeet books….

    seeing is knowing…

    Creatures from the Fat Lagoon

  3. fuzzy responds:

    Holy Mackerels!

  4. Loren Coleman responds:

    As regards Roger Knights’ good note above, usage is the key here, not priority or Ivan T. Sanderson’s ideas. Ivan, whom I greatly appreciate and follow in many things, had all kinds of “word creations” he tried to get going that did not catch on…such as calling the unknown hominoids worldwide “ABSMs,” or noting Bigfoot should be termed “Oh-Mah” or “Neo-Giants.” Maybe he did call them “Bigfeet” in one or two places, but it didn’t catch on and should not have.

    As Michael Taylor, San Francisco Chronicle staff writer, penned in 1999: “Cognoscenti rarely use the plural ‘Bigfeet’.”

  5. WVBotanist responds:

    I think that using the term ‘bigfeet’ to described several individuals is just a load of craps.

    I do think they have big feet, however

  6. ZenBug responds:

    The Bigfoot/Bigfeet issue follows the same rule as The Toronto Maple Leafs (rather than Leaves): When you combine two terms to form a new noun, generally the grammatical rules of pluralization of each are no longer applicable. So it’s certainly not Bigfeet, and Bigfoots doesn’t sound right either, so I’d agree with Bigfoot/Bigfoot. Afterall, one Bigfoot actually has two feet anyway, so if Bigfeet is a word, mightn’t it apply to one creature just as logically as many?

    Incidentally, I once saw a TV movie in the ’80s about Bigfoot starting Candice Cameron and the woman who played Marilla in Anne of Green Gables. The latter actress played a Bigfoot researcher, and when referring to a group of Sasquatch, she would use the term “Sasquattle”. I always wondered if the producers just made that word up. Ever heard of it?

  7. Ole Bub responds:

    Zenbug….Stump broke cattle and Saskwatch near Seattle…..Sasquattle…no bueno

    seeing is knowing

    Creatures from the Fat Lagoon

  8. John Kirk responds:

    Sorry Loren. I think in British Columbia we are going to stick with our plural for hairy bipedal hominids.

    e.g. sandwich = sandwiches

    Sasquatch = Sasquatches
    :)

  9. Jos Gagné responds:

    I agree with John about the plural of sasquatch. And I’d like to point out the capital s in «Sasquatch» might, by now, be acceptable as «sasquatch» because the word has become a common noun (in my opinion).
    Back to the whole plural debate however, I do believe that in French you would say “des bigfoot” without the added s. Either way, any plural noun finishing with an s, whether singular or plural, sounds the same in French. Des okapis/des okapi, it’s all the same :)
    Ah, French : the language of science for nearly 400 years… Heh heh, sorry about the out of place anecdote, I just finished my class on the history of the French language. Very fascinating.

  10. Jos Gagné responds:

    Haha, a friend of mine just told me : Either way, it should be called Bigfeet, since most likely, it would have two feet. Unless it has a single big foot, you can call it Bigfoot.

    Hopping on…

  11. Jeremy_Wells responds:

    I like “Sasquatch” over “Bigfoot” anyway, but otherwise, I think Loren is spot on with his grammar lesson.
    I’ve worked steadily as a journalist and technical writer for the last seven years, and you wouldn’t believe the number of times I’ve heard word choices like “gooses” or “swines”, for instance.
    The irony was this was nearly always from “educated” office types. Country folk raising and working with the animals (yes, I worked some horrible small midwestern papers and had to cover 4-H shows) never made these mistakes. Grammatical rules aside, I think, as others have noted, this is most important as a “code” system.
    While some might find this slightly elitist or exclusive, the fact of the matter is, one must be careful who they associate with.
    To be quite frank, I wouldn’t want to be in the woods with someone who wanted to hunt “deers”, because if you don’t even know how to refer to them, that tells me more than a little about your experience with them.

  12. kidquid responds:

    Hey Loren- Orang Dalam would be another example of singular/plural, right? (It still bugs me that news from the recent Malaysian flap keeps referring to “Bigfoot”!)

  13. thom_powell responds:

    I respectfully submit that capitalizing the word “bigfoot” is just a bad idea that needs to be officially scrapped. Ask youselves WHY bigfoot needs to be capitalized. Because Richard Greenwell said so? The fact that Richard is both distinguished and deceased does not change the fact that his decision to capitalize the names of undiscovered species was a bad one. It impies, especially in the minds of uninformed public, that there is only one of each of these mysterious beings, whose name is “Bigfoot”, “The Loch Ness Monster”, or whatever.

    Consequently, people cannot really be blamed for asking us ignorant questions like, “Have you found him yet?” They may be genuine misled by incorrect capitalization and the ensuing implication that there is only one of each being. This syntax error will continue to mislead the public as long as it persists. I don’t think Richard intended to mislead the public or trivialize the subject by endorsing incorrect capitalization but that is the unintended consequence of his decision. In my view, the incorrect use of capitalization is a much bigger issue than pluralization because the consequences of this decision are so tragic. It actually keeps cryptozoology from being taken more seriously. Richard wouldn’t have wanted that!

    BTW, Loch Ness monster is the exception, because Loch Ness is also a place name.

  14. Doug responds:

    I have always used “Bigfoot” as opposed to “Bigfeet” for the simple fact “Bigfeet” just doesn’t sound right to me. But I cannot be critical of anyone who uses “Bigfeet”. I mean, like Peter Byrne used “Bigfeet” in his book (Bigfoot: Man, Myth, or Beast? at least I think that was it). I suppose it really doesn’t matter.

  15. texasgirl responds:

    I agree with Thom that they should not be capitalized, but I also agree with Loren on the plural forms of the words. Bigfoot is an animal, just like all humans, our pets, and wild animals. I don’t think anyone would be up for capitalizing the names of all animals. “Yesterday I rode my Horse out to work the Cattle and took the herding Dog with me, but he was chasing Rabbits.”
    I just don’t see that flying with the general public. Anyway, I say bigfoot.

    Thanks!
    –Lindsey

  16. CryptoInformant responds:

    One of the native names for Bigfoot is Sasquatal, or something like that.

  17. Roger Knights responds:

    Comments on the above:

    Capitalization of the names of undocumented species was not just a whim of Greenwell’s, but is an established scientific standard. We should therefore abide by it.

    There’s no way that merely capitalizing “Bigfoot” causes the general public to think that a single individual is involved. That confusion arises only when a proper name like Nessie or Champ is used. Proper names are capitalized, but it’s obvious to everyone that Bigfoot is instead a generic term.

    The Bords were as knowledgeable as anyone, and they used “Bigfeet” as the plural in their Casebook, and retained that usage in the version republished last year. (E.g., in the title of Ch. 7, on p. 121.)

    The case of the team-name Mapleleafs does not indicate that this is the natural way the genius of our language forms plurals of that sort. It only indicates that the team owner dubbed his team thus. He could just as easily have dubbed them the Mapleleaves, and everyone would have happily accepted his ukase. If an NFL team owner had wanted to poke fun at the Giants by calling his team The Dwarves, it would have been equally acceptable (or equally objectionable) as The Dwarfs.

    A much better indication of a natural (unaffected) plural is the case of the Blackfoot tribe of Indians. The natural tendency of English-speakers is to refer to a group of them as Blackfeet. (Including you, hypocrite lecteur.) I Googled and found, near the top of the list, an informational website that regularly used phrases like, “The Blackfeet used dogs to drag travois,” etc. If Blackfoot/Blackfeet, then Bigfoot/Bigfeet.

    Insistence on avoiding a plural form that comes naturally to the English-speaking population is what might lead them into the error of thinking that only one of the critter exists.

  18. ZenBug responds:

    @Roger,

    No, you’re incorrect about the Maple Leafs. They’re not called that merely because the owner named them that. They’re called that because they represent the maple leaf found on the Canadian flag, and accordingly on their jerseys. They are not meant to be seen as a group of actual leaves.

    Therefore a Toronto Maple Leaf – referring to a hockey player, not to a leaf on a tree that happens to be growing in Toronto – becomes a proper noun, which adopts its own grammatical framework independent of its parts.

    Just like if you introduced Gordon Lightfoot and his brother to someone, you might say “These are the Lightfoots” not “These are the Lightfeet”.

  19. Loren Coleman responds:

    I’ve posted further on this issue and a response to Roger Knight’s comment above at Bigfoot, Not Bigfeet – Continued here.

  20. Roger Knights responds:

    Zenbug: Your comparison of the proper name “Lightfoot” to the generic name “Bigfoot” actually supports my case. A proper name like Lightfoot, whose components (Light and foot) are not descriptive of their referent, should pluralize itself by appending an S, in defiance of the rule for forming an irregular plural for the last component (foot). Ditto for Maple Leafs, since the players aren’t leaves.

    But for the tribe known as Blackfeet (because of their dark-colored moccasins, according to the site I visited), the components did describe the referent, and hence should be pluralized in the normal way (… feet). Similarly with Bigfoot. Its components describe their referent.

  21. Loren Coleman responds:

    See above…#19

    I’ve posted further on this issue and a response to Roger Knight’s comment above at Bigfoot, Not Bigfeet – Continued here.

    with link…



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