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What’s the plural of M&M?

20110525 Broken hub cap face 150x150 Whats the plural of M&M?Plurals are great because you have more of something.  Why settle for one chip when you can have a plate of chips?  If there’s room for two apples, why only eat one?  What’s the plural of M&M?  This will hurt your head like it did mine!

The so-called greengrocers’ apostrophe – or should that be, greengrocer’s apostrophe? 😉 – is something that annoys me no end.  It’s one of the spelling error’s that annoy’s me most.  See what I did there?  Annoying, isn’t it?  Almost as annoying is missing out apostrophes altogether.

In English there is only one way to form a regular plural and that is to whack the letter ‘s’ (or sometimes ‘es’) onto the end of a word.  Obviously there are words that don’t follow this rule, like goose and mouse, which obviously pluralise to gice and meese (or something) respectively, but what about acronyms?  Grammar dictates that if you have more than one compact disc, you have CDs.

What follows is a bit of mind bending nonsense, but bear with it!


M&M’s have always intrigued me.  It’s always made me exclaim, “M&M’s what?!”  And if indeed it did refer to the possessive form, or something belonging to M&M, did it belong to M the former, M the latter or both?  If it belonged to both, then surely it would be far simpler to say Ms’.  In this age of sustainability (or lack of!) it would save a lot of ink.

Judging by the old M&M’s adverts they showed on British TV in the late-90s (featuring “Yellow M&M” and “Red M&M”, if I remember rightly), the term M&M (singular) seems to refer to one sugar-coated chocolate and so the product name has a stray apostrophe.  On that basis, what would the correct plural be?  Any of the following might be right:

  1. M&Ms (Em-and-ems) – Whilst this removes the erroneous apostrophe, this is somewhat unsatisfactory, as it might be taken to mean a bag of coloured chocolate that contains one M and lots of Ms, or M + (M+M+M+…+M) or indeed M+M+M+…+M, or simply a multitude of single Ms.
  2. Ms&Ms (Ems-and-ems) – Again, with a little mathematical jiggery pokery this leaves nothing but a bag of Ms yet again.
  3. (M&M)s (Em-and-ems) – This is logically correct but clumsy and introduces unnecessary parentheses, thus corrupting the product name, making it stylistically incorrect.
  4. M&M’ses (Em-and-emses) – This seems the most logically and stylistically correct, as it leaves the name of M&M’s intact, yet pluralises something that is already a plural, albeit incorrect. 


Pluralising plurals to create a hyperplural is nonsense but it can have its uses.  A bag of coloured chocolates might be called M&M’s (plural, but incorrect).  If I presented to you M&M’ses, you could infer that I was offering you bags of M&M’s.  It is a plural of plurals.  Those of you familiar with mathematics might spot the parallel between this and infinities: Aleph-null, Aleph-one, Aleph-two and so on.

Consider the following example as a plural and hyperplural of the word car

  1. Cars: multiple of car, a collection of cars.
  2. Carses: multiple of cars, a collection of a collection of cars, or multiple sets of cars.

Point 2 seems to suggest that the Tier 2 plural (or hyperplural) is a collection of distinct groups of cars, either because of brand, colour, size, etc.  Perhaps it would make sense for a hyperplural to apply as follows: 

  1. I drove a Ford Fiesta hire car home yesterday.
  2. I now have two cars on my drive: two Ford Fiestas.
  3. In my life I have driven many carses, namely Fords, Peugeots and Toyotas.

 If you think this sounds a bit like Orwellian Newspeak (cf. doubleplusgood) you’d be forgiven, but this is much less useful and more cumbersome, adding an unnecessary layer of complexity to a language most of us struggle with already.

Driven insane

If you followed any of the above, congratulations!  If not, neither did I; it is just another one of those half-baked ideas that sounded good in my head but less so in writing.

I came across Herbert the hubcap (pictured) on a walk down by the Cumberland Basin in Bristol, UK a couple of weeks ago.  He is a broken man.

I told him my theory of hyperplurals and he seemed less than impressed.  In fact, he seemed to be in a state of shock.  You would be too, if your owner had spun you around and driven you insane until you cracked, physically breaking into pieces to reveal a permanent face of sheer horror and madness.  His mother did always say to him, “When the wind blows your face will stay like that.”

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