Today, we are faced with the reverse of the wug task. The sign on the cookie jar at any self-respecting espresso bar identifies the contents as "almond chocolate biscotti." That's nice if you'd like two or more. But what if you want just one? Unfortunately, the dictionaries have been left in the dust by the proliferation of espresso bars, and neither the OED nor the online Merriam-Webster's lists any form of 'biscotti'.
The table below reports the candidate forms that I have encountered in my fieldwork concerning this issue, carried out from 1998 on both in person and by email and ranging from rapid anonymous fieldwork in the espresso bars themselves to more formal elicitations among undergraduates, acquaintances, and family members.
|biscotto||By analogy to paparazzo, paparazzi. Positively un-American, if you ask me.|
|one of those (biscotti)||The wimp's way out.|
|biscotti||By analogy to cannoli, cannoli. Or, if you prefer, to moose, moose. Though not to mousse, mousses. This is the one to put your money on, in my opinion. A sign that this is indeed the form of the future is that the plural biscotties (yes, with an 'e') has been spotted.|
|biscot(t)||Of all the candidates, this is my favorite. True, there is the problem of whether to spell it with one 't' or two. But consider how the refreshing, almost breathtaking boldness of the morphological analysis ("If it's the last sound of a word with plural reference, then it must be an allomorph of the plural morpheme, even if /i/ sounds nothing like /s/, /z/ or /@z/") is counterpoised by the satisfyingly native formal properties ("In English, singulars are shorter than plurals"). And finally, that soupçon of Sicilian apocope. Exquisite.|
|uniscotti||One favorite isn't enough. This is my second favorite. It is declined thus: one uniscotti, two biscotti, three or more multiscotti. You don't like multiscotti? More than two at one sitting aren't that good for you, anyway.|
|biscottum||The informantnot a native speaker of Englishshould perhaps never have been subjected to the experimental task.|
|biscottus||Supplied by the only known living native speaker of Late Latin.|
(with a long final vowel)
|Not recommended due to its highly misleading resemblance to plural forms such as the etymologically unmotivated octopi. When I asked the guy at Xando's who rang up my biscotti purchase on 22 Sep 99, this is what he came up with. One suspects sleep deprivation or worse.|