Tuesday, May 24, 2005


Premise and Premises

When I worked in the telecommunications industry, I would often hear and read the solecism "customer premise equipment". It should be "customer premises equipment".

Here are definitions from Webster's Unabridged Dictionary (1913).

Premise singular is 1) "a proposition antecedently supposed or proved; something previously stated or assumed as the basis of further argument; a condition; a supposition" or 2) "either of the first two propositions of a syllogism, from which the conclusion is drawn".

Premises plural are 3) "matters previously stated or set forth; esp., that part in the beginning of a deed, the office of which is to express the grantor and grantee, and the land or thing granted or conveyed, and all that precedes the habendum; the thing demised or granted" or 4) "a piece of real estate; a building and its adjuncts".

If the context calls for it, you can use either the singular or plural for senses 1) and 2). But you can never correctly use the singular for senses 3) and 4). The phrase "customer premises equipment" falls under sense 4).

I get 220,000 Google hits for "customer premises equipment", 83,000 for "customer premise equipment". I refuse to consult a modern dictionary to see what the descriptive "laxicographers" say. In these matters I'm an unrepentant prescriptivist.

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