Results 1 to 17 of 17

Thread: Still life or still lives?

  1. #1
    Senior Member Kaputnik's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    By the long tidal river.
    Posts
    786
    Thanks
    1,480
    Thanked 1,004 Times in 451 Posts
    Rep Power
    10

    Default Still life or still lives?

    This sort of usage question is interesting to me, possibly less so to others.

    Although we all know that the plural of life is lives, it has always seemed intuitively obvious that the plural of "still life" (meaning the kind of painting, and not a person's life which is characterized by stillness) should be "still lifes". I say intuitively, because I've never really worked it out logically. And as I don't move enough in artistic circles for the question to come up very often, I'd never bothered to look it up until now.

    So I was interested, when I finally did look it up (well, Google it) just now, to find agreement with my intuition.

    https://www.merriam-webster.com/word...egular-plurals
    "If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly."
    G.K. Chesterton

  2. The Following User Says Thank You to Kaputnik For This Useful Post:

    Yazeh (May 12th, 2021)

  3. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2016
    Location
    Canada
    Posts
    836
    Thanks
    257
    Thanked 319 Times in 182 Posts
    Rep Power
    6

    Default Re: Still life or still lives?

    Surely it follows the pattern of Governors General. Stills life?


  4. The Following User Says Thank You to BayesianPrior For This Useful Post:

    Kaputnik (May 12th, 2021)

  5. #3
    Senior Member Ole Juul's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2020
    Location
    Coalmont, BC, Canada
    Posts
    406
    Thanks
    561
    Thanked 391 Times in 207 Posts
    Rep Power
    1

    Default Re: Still life or still lives?

    Thanks for the confirming article. Though I still take pause when confronted with the situation, I find it pretty obvious. A still life has nothing to do with a life and is a thing unto itself.

  6. #4
    Senior Member guyy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2017
    Location
    Brooklyn NY
    Posts
    571
    Thanks
    111
    Thanked 394 Times in 247 Posts
    Rep Power
    5

    Default Re: Still life or still lives?

    There are a lot of other factors besides logic: ease of pronunciation, need for differentiation from other words and forms, influence of other languages, etc.

  7. #5
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2016
    Location
    Clinging desperately to planet Earth
    Posts
    256
    Thanks
    26
    Thanked 273 Times in 156 Posts
    Rep Power
    5

    Default Re: Still life or still lives?

    The easy fix: singular - still life picture, and plural -- still life pictures.

  8. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to An old bloke For This Useful Post:

    Ole Juul (May 13th, 2021), Schaumburg_Swan (May 13th, 2021)

  9. #6
    Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
    Posts
    85
    Thanks
    6
    Thanked 52 Times in 29 Posts
    Rep Power
    5

    Default Re: Still life or still lives?

    Quote Originally Posted by An old bloke View Post
    The easy fix: singular - still life picture, and plural -- still life pictures.
    Exactly. "Still life" is an adjective, not a noun. It describes the type of picture.
    Dan Kalish

    Fountain Pens: Pelikan Souveran M805, Santini Libra Cumberland Gold ebonite, Waterman Expert II, Waterman Phileas, Waterman Kultur, Stipula Splash, Sheaffer Sagaris and Sheaffer Prelude

  10. #7
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2016
    Location
    Canada
    Posts
    836
    Thanks
    257
    Thanked 319 Times in 182 Posts
    Rep Power
    6

    Default Re: Still life or still lives?

    Unhelpfully, still life translates as "nature morte" in French. This phrase is treated as a noun and when pluralised, the modifier "morte" must agree with the subject "nature", viz. Les natures mortes.

  11. The Following User Says Thank You to BayesianPrior For This Useful Post:

    Kaputnik (May 14th, 2021)

  12. #8
    Senior Member Ole Juul's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2020
    Location
    Coalmont, BC, Canada
    Posts
    406
    Thanks
    561
    Thanked 391 Times in 207 Posts
    Rep Power
    1

    Default Re: Still life or still lives?

    Quote Originally Posted by kaliuzhkin View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by An old bloke View Post
    The easy fix: singular - still life picture, and plural -- still life pictures.
    Exactly. "Still life" is an adjective, not a noun. It describes the type of picture.
    I call it a noun because it's a object. I wouldn't call it an adjective just because it's a type. A truck is a type of vehicle and it's a noun.

  13. #9
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2016
    Location
    Clinging desperately to planet Earth
    Posts
    256
    Thanks
    26
    Thanked 273 Times in 156 Posts
    Rep Power
    5

    Default Re: Still life or still lives?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ole Juul View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by kaliuzhkin View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by An old bloke View Post
    The easy fix: singular - still life picture, and plural -- still life pictures.
    Exactly. "Still life" is an adjective, not a noun. It describes the type of picture.
    I call it a noun because it's a object. I wouldn't call it an adjective just because it's a type. A truck is a type of vehicle and it's a noun.
    We now venture where grammarians fear to go.

    Noun or adjective? Given that the terms portrait and still life are commonly used to refer to pictures of a certain type, one could equally correctly say that it is both. Using your analogy, a truck could be one of several types -- a diesel truck, a petrol powered truck, an electric truck, and even a hand truck ( https://www.thefreedictionary.com/hand+truck ).

    Discuss.

  14. #10
    Senior Member Ole Juul's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2020
    Location
    Coalmont, BC, Canada
    Posts
    406
    Thanks
    561
    Thanked 391 Times in 207 Posts
    Rep Power
    1

    Default Re: Still life or still lives?

    Quote Originally Posted by An old bloke View Post
    Noun or adjective? Given that the terms portrait and still life are commonly used to refer to pictures of a certain type, one could equally correctly say that it is both. Using your analogy, a truck could be one of several types -- a diesel truck, a petrol powered truck, an electric truck, and even a hand truck ( https://www.thefreedictionary.com/hand+truck ).
    I don't understand what you're saying. You seem to agree with me that "still life" is commonly used to refer to pictures of a certain type, so it's a picture, which is noun.

  15. #11
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2016
    Location
    Clinging desperately to planet Earth
    Posts
    256
    Thanks
    26
    Thanked 273 Times in 156 Posts
    Rep Power
    5

    Default Re: Still life or still lives?

    Two examples:
    1. I painted a still life). (noun)
    2. I painted a still life picture, (adjective) (noun)

    Does that make sense?

  16. #12
    Senior Member Ole Juul's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2020
    Location
    Coalmont, BC, Canada
    Posts
    406
    Thanks
    561
    Thanked 391 Times in 207 Posts
    Rep Power
    1

    Default Re: Still life or still lives?

    Quote Originally Posted by An old bloke View Post
    Two examples:
    1. I painted a still life). (noun)
    2. I painted a still life picture, (adjective) (noun)

    Does that make sense?
    Not to me.

    I think I'm not the only one who thinks it's a noun. I notice other languages which are similar to English, like Danish and German, use a single word; stilleben, stillleben.

    Come to think of it, "still life picture" is not right, because "still life" is a picture.
    Last edited by Ole Juul; May 15th, 2021 at 07:05 AM.

  17. #13
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2016
    Location
    Clinging desperately to planet Earth
    Posts
    256
    Thanks
    26
    Thanked 273 Times in 156 Posts
    Rep Power
    5

    Default Re: Still life or still lives?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ole Juul View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by An old bloke View Post
    Two examples:
    1. I painted a still life). (noun)
    2. I painted a still life picture, (adjective) (noun)

    Does that make sense?
    Not to me.

    I think I'm not the only one who thinks it's a noun. I notice other languages which are similar to English, like Danish and German, use a single word; stilleben, stillleben.

    Come to think of it, "still life picture" is not right, because "still life" is a picture.
    As I said earlier, it's a grey zone into which even grammarians fear to venture.

  18. #14
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2016
    Location
    Clinging desperately to planet Earth
    Posts
    256
    Thanks
    26
    Thanked 273 Times in 156 Posts
    Rep Power
    5

    Default Re: Still life or still lives?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ole Juul View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by An old bloke View Post
    Two examples:
    1. I painted a still life). (noun)
    2. I painted a still life picture, (adjective) (noun)

    Does that make sense?
    Not to me.

    I think I'm not the only one who thinks it's a noun. I notice other languages which are similar to English, like Danish and German, use a single word; stilleben, stillleben.

    Come to think of it, "still life picture" is not right, because "still life" is a [TYPE OF] picture.
    As I said earlier, it is a grey zone into which even grammarians fear to venture. As they would tell you, it's much of a muchness.

  19. #15
    Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
    Posts
    85
    Thanks
    6
    Thanked 52 Times in 29 Posts
    Rep Power
    5

    Default Re: Still life or still lives?

    FWIW, Oxford Languages defines it as: noun



    • a painting or drawing of an arrangement of objects, typically including fruit and flowers and objects contrasting with these in texture, such as bowls and glassware.
      "a collector of Dutch and Flemish still lifes"





      • still life as a genre of painting or drawing.
        "a master of still life"



        Note: they use "still lifes" as the plural. So does wikipedia "(plural: still lifes)".

        "Still life painting" can either be the object which you can look at but not touch, or the act of creating that object.

        I give up.







    Dan Kalish

    Fountain Pens: Pelikan Souveran M805, Santini Libra Cumberland Gold ebonite, Waterman Expert II, Waterman Phileas, Waterman Kultur, Stipula Splash, Sheaffer Sagaris and Sheaffer Prelude

  20. #16
    Senior Member silverlifter's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2018
    Posts
    506
    Thanks
    278
    Thanked 608 Times in 282 Posts
    Rep Power
    4

    Default Re: Still life or still lives?

    You can test the ambiguity the following way:

    1. The still lifes of Georgio Morandi
    2. The still lives of Georgio Morandi

    1. Makes sense and describes the works of the artist. 2. is ambiguous: it is referring to his work, or stages of his life?
    Vintage. Cursive italic. Iron gall.

  21. #17
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2021
    Posts
    126
    Thanks
    21
    Thanked 110 Times in 52 Posts
    Rep Power
    1

    Default Re: Still life or still lives?

    The way I understand it, a still life is a type of painting, or art piece, so it’s a noun. If there was more than one, it would be “still lifes”....not “still lives”....it may not be proper grammatically, but it’s the way I’ve always heard it pronounced in the art world.

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •