Usage

Q. It grates on my ear to listen to the BBC (particularly sports) newscasts talk about countries in the plural form, e.g., “England are preparing for next week’s match.” Can this be correct? I only began noticing it a couple of years ago, and I seem to recall that the practice even extends to cities or team names (Bayern Munich are out of the playoffs . . .). Your assistance would be much appreciated.

A. The British are much more likely to consider collectives in the plural rather than the singular. I first remember noticing this when reading about English rock bands back in the seventies (the Who are the loudest rock band in the world; Led Zeppelin, some say, have sold their souls). Fowler’s points out this difference between American and British usage at various points. In American English this usage has largely disappeared.