Hello all. This is my first posting. I saw this newspaper headline recently: CABINET OF SURPRISE. The story was of a new prime minister who sprang several surprises when announcing his Cabinet line-up. Should 'surprise' in the headline be singular or plural?

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From what you say, being that there were "several surprises", I can see how the title might have been "CABINET OF SURPRISES".  However, "surprise" can work as either a mass noun or a count noun, so "CABINET OF SURPRISE" can work also.

Can you provide a link to the article?  This might make it much easier for me to answer the question.



Hello, Yeoman, and welcome to the Grammar Exchange!

I agree with DocV that both "cabinet of surprise" and "cabinet of surprises" are grammatically possible, and I agree with your sense that "cabinet of surprises" would perhaps have been more in keeping with the intended meaning.

Think of (the) "Little Shop of Horrors." It's a little shop containing horrors. What if it had been (the) "Little Shop of Horror"? To me, that would change the meaning to something like a "Little Horrifying Shop": the shop itself causes horror.

Interestingly, when I tried to Google the article title in question, I didn't find it. What I found instead was a bizarre wooden cabinet for sale, called "the cabinet of surprise." And it is indeed a surprising-looking cabinet.

I think, too, of "The Swamp of Sadness" from The Never-Ending Story. The swamp itself doesn't contain sadness. Rather, it has a tendency to make passers-through sad when they attempt to pass through the swamp, some not making it. ♣

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