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Do Americans call Lego "Legos"?
October 7, 2011 9:42 PM   Subscribe

An American friend tells me that Lego is commonly referred to as "Legos" in the States. Is this true?

I am a Canadian who very much enjoyed his Lego as a child. An American friend (from Milwaukee, to be precise) tells me that in the States, they call them "Legos."

I've long been aware that many people add the "s," even though the proper branding is without an 's.' I had always thought that it was just a saying-it-right / saying-it-wrong-(but-who-cares) divide. But now I'm wondering: Is this a national divide? Is Legos-with-an-s actually an Americanism?
posted by bicyclefish to Society & Culture (128 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
Yes! "Lego" sounds odd to me, although appealingly foreign. I've always said "legos" on the theory that each plastic piece is a lego and you have a bunch of them, therefore "legos".
posted by Frowner at 9:44 PM on October 7, 2011 [31 favorites]


I'm from the US, and I always called them Legos as a kid (because they're plural!). same with everyone I know -- even now, after we know better.
posted by changeling at 9:46 PM on October 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


I can confirm that everyone I know in the United States of Freedom with the exception of Legoland employees who have it drilled out of them on pain of kiddie vomit cleanup assignment call the tiny, differentiated, discrete, multifarious blocks of plastic fun Legos.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 9:47 PM on October 7, 2011 [13 favorites]


Yes, they are called Legos in America. Even though the Lego Corporation (or whoever) wants us to call them Lego bricks. Xerox doesn't want me to call off-brand copiers by their name, and Adobe wants me to say that I am manipulating photographs with Adobe(R) Photoshop, but that's not how I was raised.
posted by muddgirl at 9:48 PM on October 7, 2011 [14 favorites]


Grew up in California here. We had Lego men and Lego cars and Lego castles, all made out of legos. We'd say "Wanna play legos?"
posted by tinamonster at 9:48 PM on October 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


American here. I use "Lego" as a descriptor and "Legos" as a collective term for the actual plastic bricks.

For example, I would say "He built a Lego Star Destroyer" or "He built a Star Destroyer out of Legos"
posted by jcreigh at 9:48 PM on October 7, 2011 [19 favorites]


Yes, they are Legos. Comparable to a kid playing with blocks or on the swings.
posted by DoubleLune at 9:49 PM on October 7, 2011


What jcreigh said. My son loves Legos, he wants such and such whiz bang specific Lego set for his birthday.
posted by lemniskate at 9:50 PM on October 7, 2011


It's legos.

You weirdos can add an S to Math, we can add an S to Lego.

Deal with it.
posted by sanka at 9:52 PM on October 7, 2011 [127 favorites]


A lego.
Many Legos.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:55 PM on October 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yeah, we say Legos here, except for the odd nerd here and there who says "It's LEGO" in the comic book guy voice. Those nerds are grownups who play with toys and are dealt with accordingly (I am giving my husband the side eye as I type this).

I am not begruding grownups their toys, as I have plenty of dolls my kids aren't allowed to play with unless they're home sick from school. But I don't get all persnickety about what they call them.
posted by padraigin at 9:59 PM on October 7, 2011 [8 favorites]


Yes Legos. A single brick is a Lego. Many are Legos. I assert that this is actually saying it right.
posted by katyggls at 10:00 PM on October 7, 2011


Interesting.

I am an American. I played with Legos all the time as a kid, and I always called them Legos.

Legoland Florida is about to open in my home-town of Winter Haven, Florida. It opens next saturday. I am very excited. Legos have been in the news a lot here lately.

Scanning some local news to seee which term is being used, I see that:
The local chamber of commerce says 'legos'.
But the local newspaper says lego, and uses the term 'lego bricks'. And, the Legoland Florida web-site itself says lego, and also uses the term 'lego bricks'

But, as an American, I do declare that correct terminology, the correct term is "Legos"
posted by Flood at 10:01 PM on October 7, 2011


I'm from the US, and I think my mother threw out some of my legos, and I'm still upset about it. Believe you me, I had way more than one of them. What would you do with a single lego, anyhow? (Yeah, I know that other places call it Lego, but it still weirds me out).
posted by nat at 10:02 PM on October 7, 2011


Here in Australia, it's Lego. I'd never even HEARD of Legos before I read it here in the last year or so.

("No, you're not getting Lego for your birthday because I'm sick of them filling up the vacuum cleaner" or "I trod on a piece of Lego last night in the dark on the way to the toilet, would you mind PICKING IT UP WHEN YOU'VE FINISHED PLAYING WITH IT?")

I'm voting, yes, it's an Americanism.

I'd like to hear from someone Danish. Do they, in the birthplace of Lego, use Lego or Legos?
posted by malibustacey9999 at 10:06 PM on October 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's "legos." Or pistols at dawn.
posted by nevercalm at 10:06 PM on October 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yes, it's "legos" in the US, but "lego" in Australia and the UK. Elsewhere, I cannot speak to.
posted by hot soup girl at 10:07 PM on October 7, 2011


I’m from the U.S. (Austin, Texas) and they were always “Legos.” I know “Lego” is correct but it sounds as affected as “mothers-in-law.”
posted by tepidmonkey at 10:09 PM on October 7, 2011


Legos, 1960s, California. Legos, 1970s, New York. Only heard the singular form recently and it still sounds wrong to me. Look at all those little pieces - how can they be JUST ONE LEGO?
posted by Quietgal at 10:09 PM on October 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is fascinating, thank-you all. Do we have other Canadians or commonwealth types in the house?

I should add that my friend is in the process of immigrating. I have every intention of lobbying my Member of Parliament to make sure "What is the plural of 'Lego'?" is on the citizenship test.
posted by bicyclefish at 10:11 PM on October 7, 2011 [9 favorites]


You play with Legos.

True, "Lego" is the official brand name. But you don't play with a corporate identity. You play with things, and those things are not just one Lego (you can't build anything with just one), but many Legos.

Lego is also an adjective, which goes along with the fact that it refers to the brand.

This isn't so unusual, is it? Another example: Apple and Mac are brand names. But if you have many Apple computers, you have Apples or Macs. See, you use "Apple" as a brand/adjective, but if you have more than one you add an "s" to create the plural. It just so happens that with Legos, you always use many of them, so the plural is almost always the appropriate noun form (with rare exceptions: "Hey, I'm missing one Lego — where did it go?").
posted by John Cohen at 10:18 PM on October 7, 2011 [7 favorites]


Canadian here. The plural of "lego" is "lego". Or "lego pieces", or "lego blocks". Even though most of my lego was not actual Lego lego. (Incidentally, the word "lego" no longer looks like a word.)
posted by lookoutbelow at 10:22 PM on October 7, 2011 [12 favorites]


"How did you build the castle?"

"I used lego I used the lego I used Legos."

It's just correct grammar...right?
posted by 3FLryan at 10:23 PM on October 7, 2011


So it's "sheeps" too, is it Usians? Maybe you should invade Legoland and win their hearts and minds?

UK born US resident, totally kidding above, and yes, infuriatingly they do say "Legos" here.
posted by crabintheocean at 10:27 PM on October 7, 2011 [7 favorites]


Saying lego, singular, just sounds sad. Like your mom only gave you one brick for your birthday, or something.

Yeah, it might have been the longer, red one, and maybe you could put a lego pine tree on it, but it's still sad.

Team Legos, all the way. :)
posted by anitanita at 10:28 PM on October 7, 2011 [8 favorites]


The plural of "lego" is "lego".

So "Lego" is a mass noun, like "snow" or "water" or "air"? That's odd, since most mass nouns aren't clearly divisible (like snow, water, air). Legos are very clearly separate and countable, so "Lego" should be a count noun. Do kids really say: "I built this with 20 Lego?"
posted by John Cohen at 10:29 PM on October 7, 2011 [13 favorites]


To pile on, growing up we'd say "play Legos," as in "what did you do all afternoon? Did you play outside?" "No, we played Legos instead."
posted by deludingmyself at 10:30 PM on October 7, 2011


In Denmark, we say "Lego" (as in "I'm playing with Lego") or "Lego bricks" (as in "I have 5 Lego bricks)". The Danish plural of Lego would be "Legoer", but I haven't heard anyone say that.
posted by WalkingAround at 10:31 PM on October 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


Do kids really say: "I built this with 20 Lego?"

No, in Australia we call them "Lego bricks" or "Lego pieces".

growing up we'd say "play Legos," as in "what did you do all afternoon? Did you play outside?" "No, we played Legos instead."

Again, in Australia we say, "We played with the Lego".
posted by hot soup girl at 10:33 PM on October 7, 2011


Just to chime in again, as a little NYer, we would "play Legos."
posted by nevercalm at 10:37 PM on October 7, 2011


Another American kid who played with Legos growing up and whose nephews love playing with their own Legos.
posted by scody at 10:49 PM on October 7, 2011


Even those of us who know that the official line from the Lego company is to use "Lego" for the plural take it about as seriously as we take Adobe when they insist that "Photoshop" never be used as a verb. One brick is a lego, two or more are legos. That's how you pluralize in English, and I'm not gonna start conceiving of it as an undifferentiated substance or something just because they want me to. This is a free country, goddammit.
posted by contraption at 10:59 PM on October 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


I would hazard that absolutely no one else outside of the US calls it "legos".

A whole pile of LEGO in front of you is called LEGO. "How much LEGO did you use to build that?" or, "How many pieces?"

"Wow, look at all that LEGO!" is not "Wow, look at all those legos!"

At some point in the past they have managed to latch on to the idea that each individual piece is called "a lego" and therefore a collection of them is "legos". "Legos" sounds peculiar to everyone except Americans. And if anyone can prove otherwise I'll eat all the "legos" in our house.
posted by roryks at 11:01 PM on October 7, 2011 [11 favorites]


So "Lego" is a mass noun, like "snow" or "water" or "air"? That's odd, since most mass nouns aren't clearly divisible (like snow, water, air). Legos are very clearly separate and countable, so "Lego" should be a count noun. Do kids really say: "I built this with 20 Lego?"

No. There is no plural of Lego. Lego is a brand name. The individual parts that make up a Lego set are pieces, blocks or bricks. (I'd go with pieces since lego sets are now far more complex than a pile of coloured bricks).
posted by missmagenta at 11:10 PM on October 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yes, it is true. And quite irritating.
posted by Artw at 11:17 PM on October 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Say you had a brand new product "BLAH" on the box and numerous similar pieces inside. Would an American naturally say "I'm playing with BLAHs" and a European or Australian say "I'm playing with BLAH"?
posted by mullacc at 11:26 PM on October 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


"So "Lego" is a mass noun, like "snow" or "water" or "air"? That's odd, since most mass nouns aren't clearly divisible (like snow, water, air)"

Snow flakes. Water droplets. Lego bricks.

I'll give you "air" though.

("Pieces"? Pah! Lego went downhill when they started making all those odd non-brick shapes…)
posted by Pinback at 11:27 PM on October 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Here in the Netherlands, we say "Lego" as well, and I remember (and a quick search confirms that) that we even used to use "the Lego" a lot, like "Shall we go play with the Lego?". And I'm 100% sure we didn't mean a single brick...
posted by Ms. Next at 11:42 PM on October 7, 2011


I'm voting, yes, it's an Americanism.

From New Zealand, absolutely. Children don't splash in the waters, go outside for a breath of airs, either.
posted by rodgerd at 11:45 PM on October 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


British: "Lego". Americans have Lincoln Logs that they can pluralise to their hearts' content, and yet they persist in this atrocity, in a manner that suggests they are undeserving of Denmark's Third Greatest Gift to Mankind.
posted by holgate at 11:52 PM on October 7, 2011 [7 favorites]


legos. of course, i come from the area of the US that unironically uses "the wal-marts" so, lego is the least of our problems.
posted by nadawi at 12:00 AM on October 8, 2011 [7 favorites]


In Australia when I was a kid (early 1960s) it was Lego. And all you got were square or rectangular blocks, windows and doors, so all you could really build was houses.

Legos is just wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. And bad, if not downright evil.
posted by essexjan at 12:04 AM on October 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Say you had a brand new product "BLAH" on the box and numerous similar pieces inside. Would an American naturally say "I'm playing with BLAHs" and a European or Australian say "I'm playing with BLAH"?

posted by mullacc


Now, this has got me thinking. Do Americans have Meccano? If so, do you say "I'm playing with Meccanos" or "I'm playing with Meccano"?

Okay, now I've just googled and learned that in the US, Meccano is Erector. Do you say "I'm playing with Erectors" or "I'm playing with Erector?".

I never got Meccano, no matter how much I begged, although that gave me a great excuse to buy it for my kids. Fascinating question, by the way.

posted by malibustacey9999 at 12:05 AM on October 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


it was always erector sets. and in my family apparently they were a boy toy and i wasn't allowed to get one.
posted by nadawi at 12:08 AM on October 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


In America it's Erector Set. "I'm playing with my Erector Set." " Built this out of/with my Erector Set."

I'm American and I had no idea that people around the world didn't call them Legos. MetaFilter enlightens me yet again.
posted by TooFewShoes at 12:11 AM on October 8, 2011 [6 favorites]


After half-way through this thread: OH GOD THE WORD HAS LOST ALL MEANING AND SOUNDS WEIRD NOW!

Also, Legos. Play with my legos. Not play with my lego bricks. We haven't time for that. And playing with my lego sounds strange and sad, as mentioned above.

This is like you going to hospital instead of using the definite article "the hospital". Though we still go to school. But we don't go to university, we go to college. Even if we're attending a university. Huh.
posted by disillusioned at 12:24 AM on October 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's a fascinating distinction: I think it's a stretch to imply that the non-US world's children and parents are somehow slaves to corporate diktat in their usage. malibustacey9999 beat me to the mark, but it's probably because Lego follows Meccano and that strand of quasi-classical naming in 20th-century games and toys, where the name occupies a space somewhere between collective noun and activity.

playing with my lego sounds strange and sad

The stuff of growing up provokes weird reactions, especially for something both abstract and global -- so forgive me, but 'playing with my legos' sounds like a childhood that was somehow wrong: it's uncanny valley territory; it feels like it belongs in the slightly-off-kilter parallel universe of Fringe.
posted by holgate at 12:34 AM on October 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


Canadian here, and I played with Lego. No s.
posted by utsutsu at 12:49 AM on October 8, 2011


Ah, but I am also Canadian (from Vancouver) and I think I played with Lego (the plural noun) but used legos to do so.
posted by jrochest at 12:57 AM on October 8, 2011




Antipodean here. I say Lego. A box of Lego, one piece of Lego, many pieces of Lego, look, your Lego is all over the floor. To me, 'Legoes' sounds as just wrong as 'sheeps' or "foots".
posted by embrangled at 1:11 AM on October 8, 2011


Lego is not quasi classical naming, by the way. "Leg godt" is Danish for "play well" and "lego" is a contraction of that.
posted by lollusc at 1:32 AM on October 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


I have only ever heard (in the UK) "Lego" used as a mass noun, like rice, not a count noun.
So it doesn't have a plural. Nothing to do with corporate diktat.

Maybe it's because we're considering Lego as a material to make an end product, rather than as a bunch of things in their own right. I'd only say "lego bricks" if I had a particular reason to point out the individual bricks, and if I was building lego with a friend I wouldn't need to point out that the bricks were made of lego, so just "bricks" (or "bits") would be fine.

OT: Adobe wants me to say that I am manipulating photographs with Adobe(R) Photoshop, but that's not how I was raised. Actually Adobe wants you to use Photoshop as an adjective: so "Make it a bit less Photoshop", "How Photoshop of you!", etc.
posted by doiheartwentyone at 2:06 AM on October 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think to some Lego is like "wood". You don't play with woods, you play with blocks of wood. So, I understand (and use) Legos, but I can see where Lego is the material and a block is the unit, so it would be blocks of Lego.
posted by edgeways at 2:09 AM on October 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


Actually my theory is bullshit because "bread" is also a mass noun, despite bread coming in quite large pieces and normally being consumed one loaf at a time. English is just daft.
posted by doiheartwentyone at 2:09 AM on October 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


My mom was really into having my brother and me play with gender-neutral "thinking" toys. Sure we had Barbies and HotWheels gifted from friends and relatives, but the collection of those paled in collection to our other toys. We spent most of our time as American youths playing with Legos, Playmobil, Lincoln Logs, Tinker Toys, and the Erector Set. I will note, however, that instead of calling toy soldiers "army men", my brother called them "armies". As in: "Time to play with the armies! Someone needs to build a fort and some bunkers out of Legos."
posted by phunniemee at 2:19 AM on October 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


But don't the British also use plural verbs in situations where Americans wouldn't? Such as in "The band are on their way"? Americans consider "the band" to be one unit, so "The band is on its way."
posted by maurreen at 2:40 AM on October 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


One lego, many legos. Erector sets are always carefully "erector sets", possibly with a little sniggering (let's face it, given the age range which commonly plays with them that name was doomed from the start).

"s" is just how you pluralize something unless there's a strong reason for doing something else, like it was one of a list of irregular nouns drilled into you at a young age or it just sounds daft. But "legos" sounds perfectly fine.

Many sheep, one shoop.
posted by anaelith at 3:03 AM on October 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Actually there has been a bit of corporate-diktat effort by Lego to enforce "Lego" over "Legos" as Cory Doctorow points out here, though he is completely wrong and a bit obnoxious to suggest that "real people in the real world call the toy Legos", since I've never heard that anywhere but in the States. (The link redirect he talks about has been changed since he wrote.)
posted by oliverburkeman at 3:05 AM on October 8, 2011


As a child in Michigan in the 1970s, I played with legos and an Erector set.

As an exchange student in the UK in the 1980s, I noticed the British usage of plural verbs for collective nouns and found it a little odd, though I got used to it. Now that I spend my summers in the UK, I have noticed that singular verbs are becoming more common, perhaps under the nefarious influence of US media.
posted by brianogilvie at 3:10 AM on October 8, 2011


Another American here, and I definitely have always said "one lego", "many legos".

Oddly enough, when I think about it, talking about my toddler using the larger-sized blocks I will say something like:

"He's not ready for Legos, he only has Duplo."

So it is really the word "Lego" specifically that we Americans have decided is conversationally pluralizable, and there's nothing that's going to change that.
posted by jozxyqk at 3:24 AM on October 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Canadian here, from Edmonton, who was apparently influenced by American culture at a young age. I used an S when pluralizing Lego. I might be misremembering things, but I doubt it, as sentences like "Let's play with Lego! Pull out the Lego!" sound very weird to me.
posted by painquale at 3:50 AM on October 8, 2011


I commented on this in a recent Lego-related thread. Lego is definitely a mass noun in standard UK usage, there's no separate singular / plural forms.
posted by pharm at 3:51 AM on October 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I just had this exact conversation at a business dinner last week.

We were in London and the table was about half USians, half English and one person from the Netherlands.

I was the only person from the US that said LEGO. It was also agreed that it's LEGO bricks or LEGO pieces.

/How cool is that new brick bucket that's just a giant LEGO man head?
posted by zephyr_words at 4:18 AM on October 8, 2011


Lego. I am originally from the UK but my American husband and our children also use lego as the plural. I don't know anyone personally that says legos.
posted by Requiax at 4:42 AM on October 8, 2011


Lego in South Africa.
posted by Gomez_in_the_South at 5:10 AM on October 8, 2011


We (UK) always said lego. And lego piece for an individual brick.
posted by Ziggy500 at 5:18 AM on October 8, 2011


Canadian here, and nobody I grew up with ever said "Legos." It was "Lego." "I got some Lego for Christmas." "Let's play Lego."

"Legos" just sounds weird. On Community last week, Michael K. Williams gave an otherwise great speech on how complicated Lego has become, but he used "Legos" instead of Lego. I cringed each time.
posted by synecdoche at 5:31 AM on October 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Lego" has become a proprietary eponym in the US. "Lego bricks" is as clunky and formal to my ears as "Band-Aid bandages" or "Pop-Tarts toaster pastries." They're Band-Aids and Pop-Tarts and Legos, and if the corporations don't like it maybe they shouldn't be so successful with their branding.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:53 AM on October 8, 2011 [18 favorites]


Another Canadian (Quebec) and I'm on the same page as all the other Canadians. "Look at the Lego", "Do you have any Lego?" etc. I doubt I called them Lego pieces, though, I think I'd ask for a red one, not a red Lego piece.
posted by jeather at 5:58 AM on October 8, 2011


"Legos" just sounds weird.

After reading the word, it just sounds even more weird, like how you repeat something over and over till it loses meaning. :\

That said, "legos" here. (wisconsin, US) Even reading "Lego" for toys sounds British or Australian in my mind for some reason, like with an accent. Weird that.
posted by usagizero at 6:02 AM on October 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not that you need more confirmation at this point, but here's another American who thinks "playing with my lego" sounds bizarre. I never even had any and I knew it was legos. The company is Lego, the little plastic things are legos. When I was little my Mom was always getting annoyed at Playskool, because their logo might make kids think "skool" was the correct spelling. Maybe she should have been annoyed at Lego, for making non-American kids think "lego" is plural!
posted by DestinationUnknown at 6:24 AM on October 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Chalk me up as another American Midwesterner who calls them "legos" without a second thought. One is a lego, plural is legos, right? I can see the point of the fact that it is properly a product type brand name (which is itself actually a Danish verb-phrase) and pluralizing it makes no sense. I think it's pretty well embedded in our culture now though (every kid I know calls them legos, including mine).

Exhibit one: Wikipedia article: instances of word "legos" = zero.

Official Lego site: no use of "legos" found in several minutes of poking around (onsite search for legos will, however, bring up Lego playsets. Way to dumb it down for the Yankees, Denmark.

And I've just added another data point to my emergency "pretend I'm a Canadian" repertoire...
posted by nanojath at 6:25 AM on October 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


I can confirm the dutch use of "de Lego" and "Legoblokjes".

So you Americans say Legos, but not Duplos?
posted by Sourisnoire at 6:38 AM on October 8, 2011


Canadian here. It was Legos through my entire childhood.
posted by Sternmeyer at 6:46 AM on October 8, 2011


So you Americans say Legos, but not Duplos?

Truthfully, I probably wouldn't use the word Duplo unless I had, for some reason, to differentiate between the two sizes: "Please don't buy him legos, he's too young. I put some Duplo on his Christmas list."

When confronted with them on the floor, they're all legos, regardless of size.
posted by anastasiav at 6:51 AM on October 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


It never occurred to me NOT to add an S. Cool :)
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:52 AM on October 8, 2011


Huh. It never occurred to me before, but growing up as a Dutch/American bilingual child, I called it 'Lego' in Dutch, but 'Legos' in English!
posted by HFSH at 7:13 AM on October 8, 2011 [6 favorites]


But don't the British also use plural verbs in situations where Americans wouldn't? Such as in "The band are on their way"? Americans consider "the band" to be one unit, so "The band is on its way."
posted by maurreen at 2:40 AM on October 8


Yeah, we all have our peculiarities. I suspect one side or the other is doing it on purpose. Interesting linguistic history question: in the 18th century when US and English culture and language was still mostly the same, what was the standard used? Did they learn Maths, go to Hospital and were the army cold at night?
posted by gjc at 7:17 AM on October 8, 2011


The guy who is really, really into Legos, like the guy who builds Lego robots for a living, is the guy who will correct you and tell you that the plural of "Lego" is "Lego" rather than "Legos."

In the vernacular, it's "legos".
posted by deanc at 7:21 AM on October 8, 2011


So, I get it that the proper branding is "Lego bricks" or "Lego pieces" but for everyone who's claiming that the USian "legos" is bizarre, let me ask you: Do you really ask for "a couple of Kleenex tissues" rather than "some Kleenexes"? Does your house have multiple "Apple computers" or "iPhone cellphones" rather than "Apples" and "iPhones"?

In other words, is it really so hard to understand why we might think saying "legos" is totally reasonable?
posted by secretseasons at 7:27 AM on October 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


I say Legos, my husband says Lego. I just can't quit it, man! Lego my Legos!

From now on I'll teach my children to say Lego.
posted by Sweetmag at 7:28 AM on October 8, 2011


I played with Legos, while my little sister played with Duplos. I also had a coffee table book about the history of Ole Kirk Christiansen's LEGO company with awesome pictures and corporate public relations, explaining exactly why the company referred to individual pieces as LEGO bricks and the toy concept as a whole LEGO. Didn't matter.
posted by infinitewindow at 7:33 AM on October 8, 2011


I would never say "some Kleenexes"; like Lego, it's a mass noun, and I'd ask for "some Kleenex".
posted by jeather at 7:36 AM on October 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just another American data point:

(1) "Lego", noun: proper name of the company: "Lego should come out with an official doomsday machine set."

(2) "Lego", adjective: "I built a Lego doomsday machine."

(3) "Lego", singular noun, a brick: "I need another 6x2 green Lego to complete my doomsday machine."

(4) "Legos", plural of (3): "When my doomsday machine is complete, I will demand the world's supply of Legos as ransom."
posted by Flunkie at 7:37 AM on October 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


I think if I had to talk about Duplo(s) I'd say "you know, the big Legos!"
posted by madcaptenor at 7:39 AM on October 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


First generation Canadian with german heritage: Lego. No question.
posted by sunshinesky at 7:50 AM on October 8, 2011


So you Americans say Legos, but not Duplos

My kids refer to the Duplo blocks as "big Legos."
posted by jrossi4r at 7:56 AM on October 8, 2011


Australian, and always called it Lego or Lego bricks. For some reason 'legos' just makes me think of Legolas. Also, this just came up in conversation today as I was watching 'Community' and the Biology teacher asks about 'legos' and I wondered if calling Lego that was a cultural thing!
posted by liquorice at 7:56 AM on October 8, 2011


So are we uncovering another usage divide here?

- UK kids play with "Lego", like it's a substance;
- US kids play with "Legos", emphasizing the individual bricks;
- all other kids (Australian, Dutch, Canadian) play with "the Lego", as though the bricks comprise one big mass fun-generating device (~"call him on the telephone")?
posted by foursentences at 8:01 AM on October 8, 2011


Every person I know says Duplos. And I'm guilty of saying kleenexes.
posted by Sweetmag at 8:03 AM on October 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


When confronted with them on the floor, they're all legos, regardless of size.

My sister and I always played "Barbies," even though the half-naked, tangled mass of plastic humanity was a mix of Barbie-style dolls. They were never Barbie, and Ken was included in that set.
posted by gladly at 8:07 AM on October 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Lego is singular and plural like Kleenex, since both are brand names.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:23 AM on October 8, 2011


We must have formed a pretty deep attachment to Lego, to care so much about how the word is used or misused. Or maybe it's just me. I grew up in South Africa and England, spending hours - as my mother still likes to remark to people, usually in connection with my later career - playing alone in my room with Lego. To me it just doesn't make any sense to pluralize it, to call it that other thing, and to be honest it drives me crazy when I see it (ditto above re that great scene in Community the other night). It's almost like, you're not worthy of this amazing creation, of sharing in the collective experience that shaped our childhoods if you can't call it by its correct name. But seeing all the passion put forth here about something that is so deeply rooted (we'd have as much luck trying to get people to change the name for 'yellow') I suppose I have to let go, and admit that YLMV.
posted by Flashman at 8:37 AM on October 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Lego is singular and plural like Kleenex, since both are brand names.

Yeah, we get it. The question is about what's normal usage. Would you really say, "I've had 3 iPhone phones?"
posted by secretseasons at 8:45 AM on October 8, 2011 [1 favorite]



So "Lego" is a mass noun, like "snow" or "water" or "air"? That's odd, since most mass nouns aren't clearly divisible (like snow, water, air). Legos are very clearly separate and countable, so "Lego" should be a count noun.



If you can clearly separate easily count your lego/s then you don't have enough of them.

For the record in my family we said both lego and legos with no confusion.
posted by wwax at 9:10 AM on October 8, 2011


Yep, Legos. "Lego bricks" sounds like something Martin Prince would say.
posted by naoko at 9:21 AM on October 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Lego. I'm a Brit. My American wife says Legos. Now we're arguing about Lego. She didn't know it's from Denmark.
posted by ob at 9:21 AM on October 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Denmark's Third Greatest Gift to Mankind.

Since no one else wants to risk looking dumb, I'll bite: What are the other two?

And it's Legos in Kansas.
posted by bryon at 9:22 AM on October 8, 2011


I'm American and I call them 'Legos' but if someone handed me one of the blocks and asked what it was I'm sure I'd say, "that's a Lego".
posted by marimeko at 9:39 AM on October 8, 2011


Lars von Trier and the Bodum?

But just to clear up a misconception that runs rife through the various counterarguments: nobody would call them 'Lego bricks', it's just Lego, or a piece of Lego. For one thing, they're not all bricks.
posted by Flashman at 9:40 AM on October 8, 2011


I'm a Brit. My American wife says Legos. Now we're arguing about Lego.

If you have kids (present or future) you now know what is required of you.

bryon: like Lego, it's left to your imagination.
posted by holgate at 9:42 AM on October 8, 2011


...add an S to Math...

Conversely, sport - sports is another example.
posted by XMLicious at 9:43 AM on October 8, 2011


I just realized something with respect to this that I think is interesting:

I would not refer to any Lego piece other than a brick as "a Lego" -- I would instead say "a Lego door" or "a Lego guy" or "a Lego wheel" or whatever -- but I would not hesitate to call a bunch of them "Legos".
posted by Flunkie at 10:20 AM on October 8, 2011


I'm from the US and I've alwayas called them interchangably "legos" and "lego pieces." I"ve never said, "Let's play legos" but have said, "Let's play with (the) legos."
posted by patheral at 11:45 AM on October 8, 2011


I'm in the US. Flunkie's comment describes my usage as well. A 'Lego' is a basic shape single color brick. Many of them are 'Legos.' But a 'Lego windshield' is also included in my definition of 'Legos' -- non-brick pieces aren't 'a lego', but a pile of them are 'Legos'.
posted by yuwtze at 11:52 AM on October 8, 2011


Wow. I say 'lego', but I don't mind if Americans say 'legos'. I find it kind of weird that some people are unironically asserting that their way of saying it is right and the other way is wrong. Fortunately at least some people are doing this ironically.

In French you can have 'a lego', as in Alain Bashung's song Comme un légo, recorded just before he died. This always sounds slightly odd to me: you can't have 'a lego' in British English. Beautiful song, though.
posted by lapsangsouchong at 1:14 PM on October 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


Lego is the substance, much like wood, metal or plasticine. Once Lego is attached to other Lego, it is just a larger, unified mass made of Lego. I admit this 100% post-hoc rationalization for the way I was taught to refer to it/them, though.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 1:40 PM on October 8, 2011


Lego is the substance, much like wood, metal or plasticine. Once Lego is attached to other Lego, it is just a larger, unified mass made of Lego. I admit this 100% post-hoc rationalization for the way I was taught to refer to it/them, though.
I understand that's a post-hoc rationalization, but do you actually think of it that way?

For example, if I have one single Lego brick, I might think of it as "a piece of Lego". If I have another, it too is "a piece of Lego". The two of them are "pieces of Lego". If I put those "pieces of Lego" together, they remain (in my mind) "pieces of Lego".

But the other things you refer to do not work this way, in my mind: I might have "a piece of clay", and another "piece of clay, and they are "pieces of clay", but if I put them together, they are no longer "pieces of clay"; they are now "a piece of clay".

Is that they way Lego is, in your mind? If you put two "pieces of Lego" together, they are no longer "pieces of Lego", but "a piece of Lego"?
posted by Flunkie at 1:46 PM on October 8, 2011


I grew up near Vancouver, BC; my brother and I used the term "Lego" to talk about the toy as a whole but "Legos" to mean a bunch of individual pieces. So for my family, "there are Legos all over the floor" = "there are pieces of Lego all over the floor." I didn't realize this was an Americanism; perhaps it's a Western/Eastern Canadian distinction, since (I think) the other Canadians above who have said they used "Legos" were also from Western Canada.

So the more I ponder this, the more I think this is really a discussion of whether Lego is usually treated as a countable or uncountable noun. The thing is, I've definitely heard Canadian English speakers drop the implied unit of measure for certain uncountable nouns in casual speech and adding an -s to pluralize them. I wonder, then, if "Lego" vs. "Legos" is similar to asking the server for "three coffees please" as opposed to "three cups of coffee" or the server saying s/he'll bring your table "three waters" instead of "three glasses of water." Why this happens with some and not others, I don't know. I've never heard of someone asking for "three wines" instead of "three glasses of wine," but I have heard people say they had "six beers" last night.

(Now that I think of it, though, I have heard people refer to "several wines from the _______ region of France" to mean "different types of wine" etc.)
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 2:01 PM on October 8, 2011


Well, now that I think about it a little more, "wood" and "metal" fall actually are different (in my mind) than either plasticine or Lego:

* A piece of wood. It is wood.
* Two pieces of wood. They are wood.
* Join them: two pieces of wood. They are wood.

* A piece of Lego. A Lego. It is Lego.
* Two pieces of Lego. Two Legos. They are Lego.
* Join them: two Legos. They are Lego.

* A piece of clay. It is clay.
* Two pieces of clay. They are clay.
* Join them: A piece of clay. It is clay.

So:

* All are the same in that "X" doesn't change dependent upon "It is X" or "They are X".

* Wood, metal, and Lego are the same in that joining "pieces" results in "pieces", while joining clay results in "a piece".

* Lego is different from wood, metal and clay in that the individual pieces can be referred to as "a X" rather than "a piece of X". It is in this, and I think only in this, that the "Legos" issue arises - that's where the heart of the issue is: unadorned "Lego" can have "a" in front of it, while unadorned wood, metal, or clay cannot.

And I suspect that if it were natural of me to refer to "a piece of wood" or "a piece of clay" as "a wood" or "a clay", then I would probably refer to multiple pieces of wood or multiple pieces of clay as "woods" or "clays". That's sheer speculation, of course, but it seems natural to me.
posted by Flunkie at 2:07 PM on October 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


OK, hold on, to be clear:

When I said "They are wood", "they are Lego", and "it is clay", those could be interpreted differently than I meant them.

I meant (for example) "They are Lego" as "United, they comprise a Lego object", not as "They are united pieces of Lego". The latter I would say as "They are Legos", not "They are Lego".
posted by Flunkie at 2:13 PM on October 8, 2011


A piece of Borg. A Borg. It is Borg.
Two pieces of Borg. Two Borgs. They are Borg.
Join them: Two Borgs. They are Borg.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 2:53 PM on October 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


You can take my Legos from my cold dead hands.

Or alternately from the bottoms of my feet when I inevitably step on them.

(Seriously, Lego as plural? I'm with whoever upthread pointed out that we appropriated the "s" from "maths" and slapped it onto Lego. I've never understood why "math" is plural in the UK, unless they have extra ones that I don't know about.)
posted by sonika at 3:18 PM on October 8, 2011


"Nomen mihi Lego est, quia multi sumus."

(Bonus SLYT, which seemed somehow appropriate)
posted by Pinback at 3:59 PM on October 8, 2011


I have only ever heard (in the UK) "Lego" used as a mass noun, like rice, not a count noun.
So it doesn't have a plural. Nothing to do with corporate diktat.


Yeah, but when you want your little brother to hand you a few pieces of the toy, do you say hand me some lego? Nope. You say hand me some legos.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:04 PM on October 8, 2011


Math, and maths, is an abbreviation of mathematics
posted by Flashman at 4:05 PM on October 8, 2011


Another Canadian (grew up in BC, lived and nannied in Montreal and Toronto) who played/plays with Lego. No 's'. It's Lego pieces for plural, Lego for the toy in general. My five-year-old brother (who lives in Ontario) plays with Lego. When he is finished, he picks up the Lego pieces and puts them away.
posted by Felicity Rilke at 6:55 PM on October 8, 2011


Yeah, but when you want your little brother to hand you a few pieces of the toy, do you say hand me some lego? Nope. You say hand me some legos.

No, you say "hand me some lego" in my neck of the woods.
posted by rodgerd at 8:20 PM on October 8, 2011


Canadian, from 1970s Northern Ontario, and I say LEGO. When I'm hollering at my kid it's "OK, bedtime, put the Lego away." On the other hand: "If I step on one more piece of LEGO I'm throwing them all out!" So, it's more like LEGO is assumed to be a mass plural unless you specify you only want one piece. "I stepped on a LEGO" sounds weird to my ear.

I think when we were little, though, we said Legos. "Hey, you wanna come over and play Legos?" However! I think that was considered a mistake--or at least childish--the way kids get plurals wrong. "I eated all the rices." "Look at all the sheeps, mama."

And I, too, would say "Pass me some Kleenex" or "Grab a handful of Kleenex."
posted by looli at 10:00 PM on October 8, 2011


"Kleenex" already ends with an Essy sound (like 'fish'), so it's understandable that we wouldn't use another 's' to pluralize it. Lego doesn't.
posted by muddgirl at 7:04 AM on October 9, 2011


Kleenexen
posted by Flunkie at 3:56 PM on October 9, 2011


The real question is why in a thread full of Canadians has no one corrected sanka on his "maths" remark? That's UK. Canadians say "math".
posted by skwt at 11:25 PM on October 9, 2011


bryon: "Denmark's Third Greatest Gift to Mankind.

Since no one else wants to risk looking dumb, I'll bite: What are the other two?
"

My guesses:
1) Vikings
2) Jam filled pastries (aka "the danish")
posted by I am the Walrus at 12:10 PM on October 10, 2011


I was at the Santa Monica Main Library today and saw a poster announcing some upcoming activities for children, including the following:

Lego Block Party
Thursday, Oct. 13, 3:30 - 5:00 pm
We provide the Legos, you provide the fun!

That is all.
posted by Room 641-A at 2:49 PM on October 10, 2011


I'm Australian and it's Lego all the way. Not 'the Lego'.
posted by Wantok at 7:54 PM on October 10, 2011


Very late to the party, but I was going through Wikipedia's entry on the "genercized trademark" and came across this passage, so even the Lego people were aware of people's penchant for calling them "Legos," and wanted to discourage it:

One example of an active effort to prevent the genericization of a trademark was that of the LEGO Company, which printed in manuals in the 1970s and 1980s a request to customers that they call the company's interlocking plastic building blocks "'LEGO blocks' or 'toys' and not 'LEGOs'." While this went largely unheeded, and many children and adults in the U.S. referred to the pieces as "LEGOs", use of the deprecated term remained largely confined to the LEGO Company's own products – and not, for example, to Tyco's competing and interchangeable product – so genericization of the LEGO trademark did not occur.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 3:23 AM on October 30, 2011


"Genericized," dammit.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 3:24 AM on October 30, 2011


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