General Writing and Grammar Help/use of the noun - "milks"

Advertisement


Question
Dear Ted,

Hi -   I hope all is well with you.

Can you please tell me if the non-count noun - “milk” can ever be correctly used as a count noun (milks).

For example, I have heard people say “two milks” when referring to “two glasses of milk” or “two cartons of milk”, etc.   Is “two milks” grammatically correct, or is saying “two milks” just an example of colloquial language.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Rich

Answer
Dear Rich:

It has been a long while.  I have missed hearing from you!

******

Can you please tell me if the non-count noun - “milk” can ever be correctly used as a count noun (milks).

For example, I have heard people say “two milks” when referring to “two glasses of milk” or “two cartons of milk”, etc.   Is “two milks” grammatically correct, or is saying “two milks” just an example of colloquial language.

*** It's like saying "I'd like two coffees," which actually means "I'd like two cups of coffee."
Eliminating the prepositional phrase is a colloquialism.  In some regions of this country, using these phrases is perfectly natural.  However, "two milks" is NOT grammatically correct for the greater part of the U. S.  When New Yorkers say, "I want a slice," they are referring to pizza and nothing else.  Saying "I want a slice" in Atlanta would result in the question "Of what?"

Rich, I searched the Oxford English Dictionary and found a few references to "milks," as a plural noun.  Most of them are very old, which means that centuries ago, "milks" was not uncommon.


1661   R. Lovell Πανζωορυκτολογια 110   Of milks the Womans is most temperate.

1797   Encycl. Brit. X. 83/1   The milks of wild-poppies, garden-poppies, dandelion, hawk-weed, and sow-thistle gave brown or brownish-red stains.

1861   Jrnl. Royal Agric. Soc. 22 i. 35   These milks came from the same dairy.

1986   B. Fussell I hear Amer. Cooking iii. xi. 189   Settlers had already learned from the Indians how to turn indigenous nuts into butters and ‘milks’.

1990   Pract. Health Spring 7/1   Cleansing creams or milks are massaged into warm skin where they liquefy.

NOTE:  The 1986 entry places "milks" in quotation marks, suggesting that this is a special use of the word.

The 1990 refers to a different kind of milk.

Ted

General Writing and Grammar Help

All Answers


Answers by Expert:


Ask Experts

Volunteer


Ted Nesbitt

Expertise

I am the bibliographic instruction and reference librarian at a public college. Some members of the English department recommend me to their students. I offer assistance in grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and paragraph development. My master`s thesis concerns William Faulkner`s tragic novels. I formerly taught advanced placement English at two schools in the Philadelphia area.

Experience

I have been one of the highest-ranked volunteers in this category for more than a decade.

Education/Credentials
B. A. and M. A in English; MSIS in Library & Information Sciences; graduate study in philosophy

©2016 About.com. All rights reserved.