September 1st, 2004
Detroit Tigers fan or Tiger fan? / what is a fact?
by Barbara Wallraff
Ruth Stokes, of Sterling Heights, Mich., writes: “My sister and I are having a discussion regarding salutations. If you want to write a fan of the Detroit Tigers baseball team, how would you begin the letter? I say it should be ‘Dear Tigers Fan,’ and she says it should be ‘Dear Tiger Fan.’ Can you set us straight? We will abide by your answer.”
Dear Ruth: Where I live, in the land of the Red Sox, the answer is more obvious than it may be in most places. “Dear Red Sock fan” is, of course, impossible. We might call someone who likes cats a “cat fancier.” But plural proper names, including the names of sports teams, tend to stay plural when they’re used as adjectives. If the person you’re writing is a fan of the Tigers, you should say “Dear Tigers fan.” Even if the person you’re writing is a fan of one particular Tiger, you should say “Dear Tigers fan,” because “Tigers” is a proper name being used adjectivally.
Ken Molly, of Eugene, Ore., writes: “In the current edition of the American Heritage Dictionary, the primary definition (listed first) for the word ‘fact’ is ‘information presented as true and accurate.’ ‘Presented as’? Can this be correct? If so, I am appalled. A person could knowingly present a falsehood as a fact! The second listed definition, ‘something having real, demonstrable existence,’ strikes me as more accurate. Even better, ‘fact: something verifiably true and accurate.’”
Dear Ken: Is this some kind of brainteaser? In fact (ahem), the first definition of “fact” in the current American Heritage Dictionary is “knowledge or information based on real occurrences.” The second definition is “something demonstrated to exist or known to have existed.” I checked all three previous editions of that dictionary too, and no edition gives what you say as its first two definitions of “fact.”
© Copyright 2003 by Barbara Wallraff. Reprints require prior permission. All rights reserved.