Monday, June 24, 2013

The singularity of premise

One of my colleagues recently sent me a mild complaint about the use of premise in this context:
AWS Direct Connect makes it easy to establish a dedicated network connection from your premise to AWS. Using AWS Direct Connect, you can establish private connectivity between AWS and your datacenter, office, or colocation environment [...]
Specifically, of course, the observation is that as used in this context, the term should be premises, as per the second definition here:

It seems possible to me that premise in the usage above might be an example of a singular back-formation from what is in effect a mass noun (premises), along the lines of pease > peas > pea. (See also cherry.) Thus, premises in this context is being interpreted as a plural—We visited the company's [many] premises.

If this analysis is true, it seems like the tendency to think of the land-oriented premise as singular might be helped along by the existence of premise as an existing singular, albeit with a different meaning.

Someone else pointed out that the term on-premise has some traction. Assuming that Mr. Google is correctly interpreting my query, that term seems to have been a variant with equal frequency for a while of on-premises:

It is a bit curious to me that the lines diverge in the 1980s and then on-premises starts to head back downward. However, that might be due to the query, not to actual usage.

What do you think? Do you use and/or do you hear premise as a singular being used to refer to a facility or building?


Django Wexler said...

Never heard that one before. It sounds odd to my ears, but I suppose I can see the logic.

Emil Klein said...

To the above comment^
- Try reading it 3 or 4 times. It does actually make sense :b

Anonymous said...

I can see the logic behind "on-premise", in that even words which are only (or almost only?) ever used in their plural form (such as "scissors" or "trousers") take a singular when used attributively ("scissor blade", "trouser leg").