Plurals

Q. Why do people (well-educated, high-profile people) constantly use “e-mails” when referring to more than one e-mail? The fact that the communication has been sent electronically shouldn’t affect proper usage. Isn’t it wrong to use the term “e-mails” instead of “e-mail”? We never say “mails” for multiple pieces of mail; we say “mail.” I’ve been told that I’m just too picky, but I believe that “e-mail” covers both singular and plural, same as deer, moose, fish, etc. This is getting as annoying as “that is so fun.” Our language is going downhill. Why must we lower our usage standards to meet the lowest common denominator?

A. “E-mail” and “mail” aren’t exactly parallel in usage. We don’t say “I received six mail today.” We say “letters” or “pieces of mail.” Since “e-mail messages” is a few syllables longer than we generally tolerate in computerspeak, the coinage of “e-mails” seems to perform a useful function. As for language going downhill, we prefer to believe that it is constantly evolving to meet our needs. (Otherwise, we would have to be grumpy all the time.)