Fireworks

Dutch treats the broad concept of pyrotechnics as a singular noun, “vuurwerk”. English doesn’t: fireworks are in the plural.

In the singular, a firework (with an article) is an individual banger or rocket or Roman Candle or whatever.

  • The word just isn’t used as a generic singular with no article. The Chinese invented fireworks, not ‘firework’.
  • You can have a firework display, but fireworks display is still more common in both EN-GB and EN-US.
  • The plural also affects associated grammar (such as “the attempt to ban them” below, rather than “to ban it”).

Oh, and by the way: the traditional dates for fireworks are different. Independence Day for the Americans (July 4th) and Bonfire Night (5 November) for the Brits. Although the rather tasteless anti-Catholic connotations of the latter do mean that it’s getting superseded by New Year, like much of the world.

Prevalence: not high. But a pretty hot topic at the moment, since a rather ineffective attempt to ban them last New Year (coronavirus-stricken hospitals not needing the extra burden of injuries).
Frequency: high. Not one where Dutch people seem to think that the usage might be different.
Native: no. Unlike clockwork. That one is a singular. Sorry.

Published by Mike Wilkinson

Twenty years of translating and editing Dutch into English, as well as writing and publishing in English.

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