A Culture of Food: Spots for spot?

It happens to me every year around this time. On the side of almost every rural North Carolina coastal town, I see a sign: fresh spots ahead.

I scoff.

The saltwater fish known scientifically as Leiostomus Xanthurus shows up all along the US southern coast down to the Gulf of Mexico. The spot’s diet, which mostly consists of small crustaceans or detritus (dead organic material), makes it an integral part of the food chain. Speaking of the food chain. While bloodworms are the ideal bait for spot, the juvenile spot is used as bait (and is prey) for a wide variety of fish (everything from flounder to Atlantic mackerel). This smaller fish is a favorite among fishermen and seafood lovers. The North Carolina Spot Festival (coming up on November 7th and 8th, 2020) held in Hampstead, North Carolina, can attest to that. I know that I would love a cold Pepsi and a big plate of fried spot and shrimp with a side of french fries.

So what pray tell is my problem with the spot? It is the name. Not the fact that it got its name from the dark ‘spot’ located behind each gill. That is not what makes my eye twitch. What could cause a Southern gentleman like myself to scoff at some simple fresh fish signage? The colloquial plural form of the word does not sit well with me. It’s a noun. It’s a plural, so it has to be spots. Right? Nouns are tricky, and the pluralization of a noun and knowing when to use that pluralization is even trickier. While you have one horse and if you get another, its two horses. Right. You hear one deer walking through the brush but you see two deer in that field. While looking into the afternoon sky, you might find two ducks flying adjacently to three geese (not three gooses). SO when I tell you that it bothers me to see someone use ‘spots’, I would politely love to guide them through a field of facts. Though it can refer to a variety of things (a literal spot, a spot of money, or even used as a verb), I am arguing that the singular and plural should remain the same when referencing the fish in most cases. Here is my example. Let us take the flounder, for instance. This demersal fish, found on ocean bottoms around the world, is also a favorite oceanic fish caught (or gigged) off the North Carolina coast. If you wrote up an advertisement that you were selling said fish, you would say that you are selling Fresh Flounder. Correct? You do not say fresh flounders. If you were lucky enough to catch a cooler full of delicious red drum, you would exclaim to your friends, “friends, I have caught a cooler full of delicious red drum.” That is where I am in this situation. It’s the presentation.

While in many cases, the rule for pluralizing a noun is to add -s or -es to the noun is not always true. That is it. I rest my case. Maybe it is not as serious as I am making this out to be. Maybe the rule for pluralizing spot is spots but just don’t do it if it’s referring to the fish. In other circumstances you could spot that -s where it would normally belong, but if you are writing up an advertisement or even talking about going out to eat seafood, that’s one spot where that s doesn’t belong.


Spots sign accredited to Susan Brown, Fair Use.

Spot Fish By NOAA’s Fisheries Collection; Collection of Brandi Noble – https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?speciesID=953, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8019924

Fresh Spot Dinner image accredited to Dockside Seafood & Fishing Center, Virginia Beach, Fair Use.

Fresh Hot Spot image accredited to localsseafood.com, Fair Use.

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