Don't do it by halves

While browsing through my collection of old motor cycle magazines I came across: "the valves snapped in halves". This gave me pause for thought. Surely the phrase should be "the valves snapped in half"? But then I thought again. No-one would write "the valves snapped in quarter"; you'd write "quarters" or "thirds" or any other fraction you'd care to name.

Clearly you can't break something into a single half (unless possibly you're a zen buddhist). I was left wondering when this illogical use of the singular "half" appeared, and why. Hardly earth shaking, I know. I've been using "half" all my writing life and now I want to use "halves" but can't because no-one else does.

Subs! Copy editors! You have the power. Bring back halves!


The Ridger, FCD said...

I'd say "into halves/quarters/thirds" but "in half". Not, though, "in third".

Blue said...

You might not be able to use it at work, but in your personal life you can. Then maybe others will copy you and it will spread, finally coming around to work when they see how accepted it is. All because of you. :D