APS News

It Ain't the Grammar

A large number of comments in opposition to the proposed APS name change were devoted to the issue of whether "American Physics Society" is grammatical. A few of these comments, randomly chosen from among many:

—  "Physical" is an adjective to modify "Society". "Physics" is a noun and thus the wrong part of speech.

— This is more than a little silly. An adjective is an adjective and a noun is a noun.

— "Physics" is not an adjective, and should not modify a noun.

— The changed wording is illiterate and would give the public a very bad impression of our education.

— American Physics Society is...poor grammar.

— I do not believe that "American Physics Society" is correct English.

This from people who work in physics departments, do physics experiments, teach physics courses using physics text books, go to physics conferences, attend physics lectures, solve physics problems and belong to the physics community. There is nothing wrong grammatically with "physics society". One may complain (and many did) that it doesn't sound as good as "physical society", or that it's hard to pronounce the two s's one right after the other. Appeal to your sensitive ear and less than nimble tongue if you must, but don't blame it on the grammar.
— Alan Chodos

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Editor: Alan Chodos
Associate Editor: Jennifer Ouellette
Staff Writer: Ernie Tretkoff