The Grammarphobia Blog

Learning disabilities

Q: I work for a marketing firm where the rules of English are subject to “marketizing.” Lately our research department has informed us of “learnings” that I assume can be used to make “decidings.” This kind of talk gives me “cringings.”

A: “Learnings”? What happened to good old “findings”?

In my opinion, the noun “learning” (the act of gaining knowledge or the knowledge that’s gained) has no plural form in contemporary English. In the past, however, “learning” was used in the plural.

The Oxford English Dictionary has several published references from the 16th and 17th centuries for “learnings,” including citations from Shakespeare, Marlowe, and Bacon.

Here’s one from The Advancement of Learning (1605) by Bacon: “He did send his divine truth into the world, waited on with other learnings.”

But the OED has only one reference for the usage since the 17th century and that’s from a 50-year-old research paper full of academic jargon.

Maybe your company needs to engage in a few hirings in the research department, or else send the culprits back for some more “schoolings.”

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