The Grammarphobia Blog

Did Caesar drive a Lexus?

Q: If a husband and a wife each own a Lexus, do they have two Lexuses or Lexi?

A: The plural of “Lexus” is “Lexuses.” The brand name isn’t derived from Latin, contrary to popular belief, but was an invention of the Toyota Motor Corporation.

In a history of the car, Lexus:The Relentless Pursuit (2011), Chester Dawson writes that “Lexus” was a shortening (and a respelling) of an earlier choice for the brand name: “Alexis.”

In 1986 a New York consulting firm, Lippincott & Margulies, gave Toyota “a master list of 219 potential names,” Dawson says, and Toyota officials eventually narrowed the list to five.

Of these, the favorite was “Alexis,” the author writes, but that “sounded like the name of a person, not a car.”

What’s more, Dawson says, it reminded some Toyota officials of a “femme fatale” character in the TV show Dynasty. (Joan Collins originated the role of Alexis Colby.)

After a little fiddling, Dawson writes, “the group stumbled upon the neologism Lexus.

How should this linguistic creation be pluralized in English? Like any other noun ending in “s,” it’s made plural by adding “es”—hence, “Lexuses.”

But a bit of googling suggests that a lot of people, including many Lexus owners, mistakenly believe the word is Latin and should be pluralized as “Lexi.”

In fact, Dawson writes, a comedian on a popular BBC radio series “made a running gag of the plural neologism ‘Lexi.’ ”

And that’s today’s lesson in lexi-cography!

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