Humble pie or pies?

  • quietdandelion

    Banned
    Formosa/Chinese
    Thanks, Tompion.
    I think I'm eating humble pie now; in fact, I've been eating my humble pie since I began teaching English. I couldn't help it--it's a fact I couldn't do anything about.
    But why not plural pies since pies are countable nouns?
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Thanks, Tompion.
    I think I'm eating humble pie now; in fact, I've been eating my humble pie since I began teaching English. I couldn't help it--it's a fact I couldn't do anything about.
    But why not plural pies since pies are countable nouns?
    Well now, there's a question! One can't always count on such logic in idioms, of course. I think pies being quite considerable dishes usually are eaten only one at a sitting, but let's see what other people say.
     

    sloopjc

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Well really! Humble pie is a metaphor! Find me one in a shop, and if it tastes good I'll order more (humble) pies! ;)
     

    sloopjc

    Senior Member
    UK English

    panjandrum

    Occasional Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Idiom, metaphor, or whatever, it is normal to talk about XXX pie as a non-count noun.
    We are having apple pie tonight.
    Even if there are 400 of us and there are 100 apple pies, we are having apple pie tonight. In fact, even if these are individual apple pies, and there are 400 of them, we are still having apple pie tonight.

    Apple pie, gooseberry pie, cherry pie, pumpkin pie ... ... and humble pie.
     

    panjandrum

    Occasional Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    quietdandelion said:
    Is it really a big deal to use the wrong form? It does carry one's meaning across anyway, sigular or plural?
    It all depends on what message you wish to get across.
    If you talk about eating humble pies, the first message you will get across is "spoken by a non-native".
     

    Nunty

    Modified
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    On the one hand "eating humble pie" is just an idiom that must not be changed.

    On the other hand, when we talk about certain kinds of food, we treat normally countable nouns as non-countable:
    Do you like cake?
    May I offer you some candy?
    I try to eat fruit every day.
    And, of course as Panj pointed out, we can choose from among apple pie, blackberry pie, cherry pie... and try to stay away from humble pie.
    :)
     

    sloopjc

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Idiom, metaphor, or whatever, it is normal to talk about XXX pie as a non-count noun.
    We are having apple pie tonight.
    Even if there are 400 of us and there are 100 apple pies, we are having apple pie tonight. In fact, even if these are individual apple pies, and there are 400 of them, we are still having apple pie tonight.

    Apple pie, gooseberry pie, cherry pie, pumpkin pie ... ... and humble pie.
    Is this AE or BE? If you asked a UK shopkeeper, "Do you have any apple pie?" he might retort, "We've got hundreds!". If you asked, "Do you have any pork pie?" it might sound even odder, in my opinion. In a restaurant I would ask, "Do you have XXX pie?" if "XXX Pie" was on the menu. I don't agree with saying that it's normal to talk about XXX pie as a non-count noun.
     

    panjandrum

    Occasional Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Remember how the conversation developed.
    We're on the question of humble pie - or pies.
    Quietdandelion asks - why not plural pies, pie is a count noun.
    Suggestions that this is an idiom, a metaphor - hence pie singular.

    In response, my intention was not to suggest that we never talk about pies plural (there have been plenty of plural pies already in the thread), but to make the point that it is normal to talk of XXX pie as a non-count noun. Perhaps I should have said ALSO normal.

    In the context of the expression in this thread, in particular, it would be very unusual to talk about pies, plural - wouldn't it? That, I feel, is a consequence of humble pie being either metaphorical or idiomatic - not literal.

    So, for example, apple pie outnumbers apple pies by around 4:1 in Google.
    Humble pie outnumbers humble pies by more than 300:1
     

    Elowen

    Member
    English English
    "I’m eating an apple pie", implies you’re eating a whole apple pie, either because it’s a small one, or because you’re extremely greedy. Similarly, if you ask a shopkeeper "Do you have any apple pies?" you’re asking for whole pies, whereas if in a restaurant you ask forapple pie” you’re expecting a portion of a whole pie. The fact that we don’t usually talk about someone eating humbles pies, implies that humble pies are too large to eat a whole one in one sitting!
     

    sloopjc

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Remember how the conversation developed.
    We're on the question of humble pie - or pies.
    Quietdandelion asks - why not plural pies, pie is a count noun.
    Suggestions that this is an idiom, a metaphor - hence pie singular.
    I couldn't agree more. It's a foolish side dish, is this humble pie. It was originally a pie - Umble pie (it contained offal) but you're right Panj, we shouldn't be discussing the countability of non-edible idioms or metaphors.:D
     

    my-own-fantasy

    Senior Member
    English-USA
    I don't know why, but I have never heard "humble pie" in plural form. Who knows why, as pie is a noun that can be put in plural form....
     

    panjandrum

    Occasional Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I don't know why, but I have never heard "humble pie" in plural form. Who knows why, as pie is a noun that can be put in plural form....
    I suspect this is because no one has ever made a humble pie - its only existence is in this phrase or in direct allusion to it. You'll find a good few examples like that if you search for "humble pies".
     

    sloopjc

    Senior Member
    UK English
    I don't know why, but I have never heard "humble pie" in plural form. Who knows why, as pie is a noun that can be put in plural form....
    I mentioned earlier how "humble pie" derives from the old English recipe of "Umble pie" - made from offal. In this day and age you would NOT WANT TO EAT A WHOLE ONE. Thus, only a portion of the imaginary pie would need to be consumed before you retch an apology in the face of your proud victor.

    To clarify:

    Humble pie
    is not a real pie, but an expression /idiom /metaphor.

    If it was a real pie (as it once was) the idea is that you would not be able to finish it before your preference to offer an apology. Hence, the imaginary pie is never consumed in its entirety. The humble pie is big! It gets passed around! There is only one humble pie! There need only be ONE humble pie, and they do not make "party-sized" ones to nark forum members either!
     
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