Keys used in the plural

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Eamer:
It seems to me that people use frequently the plural forms of the word "key" to talk about their keys. Apparently they do so even when there is only one key. Is this correct, and if so, why?
For instance, one might say, "I lost my house/car keys." Does this always mean they lost more than one key? Or could it be that they are referring to a single entity using a plural word?
Eamer
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Harvey Van Sickle:
[nq:1]It seems to me that people use frequently the plural forms of the word "key" to talk about their keys. ... more than one key? Or could it be that they are referring to a single entity using a plural word?[/nq]
In the case of the house at least for me it's keys in the plural. (I carry 3 house keys - front, back and gate.)
In the case of the car, I suspect it's an anachronism from the not-so- distant-past when each lock had a separate key (ignition, doors and boot, petrol cap; ah, I remember it well..)

Cheers, Harvey
Ottawa/Toronto/Edmonton for 30 years;
Southern England for the past 21 years.
(for e-mail, change harvey to whhvs)
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Tony Cooper:
[nq:1]It seems to me that people use frequently the plural forms of the word "key" to talk about their keys. ... more than one key? Or could it be that they are referring to a single entity using a plural word?[/nq]
I cannot imagine anyone carrying a single key. Keys grow in clusters. On just about any key ring there is at least one key of unknown use. It is the key that opens something one once owned or used, and it never discarded in fear that this something will suddenly demand access.
In most houses there is a "key drawer" where old keys, like elephants, go to die. It is commonly considered very bad luck indeed to discard any of these keys. Even if common sense says that a key marked "Volvo" is no longer needed because you haven't owned a Volvo for 16 years, there's a deep and primitive instinct in man* not to throw away this key. The current owner that Volvo might call the next afternoon and offer $1,000 for someone to come and open the rotting carcass of that Volvo. If one moves to a new house, the contents of the key drawer should make the journey, and the keys to the old house should be added to the drawer.
Of special note are the tiny keys. These are the keys to luggage locks and are often fetishes of the old Samsonite religion. They are to be passed down from generation to generation with due reverence.

There is usually a receptacle in the garage that is similar to the key drawer, but it contains padlocks without keys. There is a myth - sometimes called "The Second Coming of the Key" - that one day one of the keys in the key drawer will fit one of the padlocks in the garage, but this has never happened yet even though the truly devout believe it will happen.
*"man", in this case, refers to male humans and not Man. Female humans are key agnostics. They irreverently call the contents of the key drawer "key clutter" and worship other things. They will try to clear out the key drawer and replace it with almost-spent tubes of lipstick in colors they will never wear again, and dried out containers of out-of-favor eye shadow.
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R H Draney:
Tony Cooper filted:
[nq:1]In most houses there is a "key drawer" where old keys, like elephants, go to die. It is commonly considered ... the key drawer should make the journey, and the keys to the old house should be added to the drawer.[/nq]
I've got a few in my key drawer that never operated any lock...for a while back in the early 90s the car dealers here were running a series of promotions wherein they'd mail a key to everyone they could think of...this was your invitation to come down to the lot, try it in a car they were giving away, and if it fit, you'd win the car...(naturally, most of these keys didn't start the car, and you would then be in a position of being on a car sales lot and at the mercy of the sales staff)..
[nq:1]Of special note are the tiny keys. These are the keys to luggage locks and are often fetishes of the old Samsonite religion. They are to be passed down from generation to generation with due reverence.[/nq]
if you get tired of looking at them, you could always try making wind chimes out of them...I've even considered that it would be a great place to hide the spare key to the house; just instruct people who are supposed to know that "the spare is the one counterbalanced by the long key with the blue head"..r
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Stewart Gordon:
While it was 16/9/03 2:56 pm throughout the UK, Eamer sprinkled little black dots on a white screen, and they fell thus:
[nq:1]It seems to me that people use frequently the plural forms of the word "key" to talk about their keys.[/nq]
How many plural forms of "key" are there?
[nq:1]Apparently they do so even when there is only one key. Is this correct, and if so, why?[/nq]
I don't think I've come across this. Are there many people who possess only one key, yet like to make people think they have several?

Though I can imagine someone asking someone else "Have you got your keys?" without knowing how many (or few) keys are on the bunch.

But I've come across it the other way round. While I was out shopping with a few of my family, my sister phoned to complain that she couldn't get into the house because she'd left her "car key" behind, having not got her car for the time being. NTS I instantly wondered "What on earth's that to do with anything?" It turned out that she had managed to confuse herself by using "car key" to mean her whole bunch of keys!

Stewart.

My e-mail is valid but not my primary mailbox. Please keep replies on on the 'group where everyone may benefit.
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Eamer:
[nq:2]Apparently they do so even when there is only one key. Is this correct, and if so, why?[/nq]
[nq:1] I don't think I've come across this. Are there many people who possess only one key, yet like to make people think they have several?[/nq]
A couple of days ago I was watching an episode of Friends (722), where the gang wants to drive Monica's Porsche. They first try to get the car key and their lines go like this:
Ross: Hey uh Mon, I saw the Porsche parked out front, can I get the keys? Thought I'd take that bad boy out for a little spin. (snip)
Rachel: Come on Ross give me the keys! Monica does not know what she's talking about! I am an excellent driver!
(snip)
Ross: There is no way I am letting you drive this car! So why don't you just hand over the keys?
"the keys" flash across the screen only a couple of times, which makes it very difficult to make them out clearly, but what they refer to with "the keys" seems to be just a single key attached to a key ring. And I think I've come across such situations more than once. Does the whole thing make sense?

Note that they speak the first two lines before they actually get to see the keys. Perhaps they are assuming that Monica has several keys on a ring as most people do (as I gather from your posts).
BTW, I carry only one conventional key myself, which is my apartment key. First, I don't own a car. I have other "keys" of course, but they are all card keys, which I use in my office.
There are a few sentences in this post that I don't think feel right, so I'd appreciate it if you could correct my English.
Eamer
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Bob Cunningham:
[nq:2]It seems to me that people use frequently the plural ... are referring to a single entity using a plural word?[/nq]
[nq:1]In the case of the house at least for me it's keys in the plural. (I carry 3 ... not-so- distant-past when each lock had a separate key (ignition, doors and boot, petrol cap; ah, I remember it well..)[/nq]
I sincerely hope that it's not true that separate keys are an anachronism. When I buy my next new car, I will be disappointed if it's not provided with separate keys.

I like being able to leave my car in the care of valet parkers or service facilities without granting access to whatever I may have locked up in the trunk.
I think several years ago I may have owned a Japanese car that had two keys: One key would fit both the ignition and the trunk; the other, the ignition only. If that's true, it was an excellent idea.
As for the subject question, if I still had the Japanese car, and if my memory of its provision of keys is accurate, I would speak of "my car keys" when I had both keys on a ring in my pocket, but when I left the car for service, I might take the ignition-only key off the ring and leave "the key" with the car. But if I didn't have anything in the trunk to bother about, I would probably just leave "the keys".
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Harvey Van Sickle:
snip
[nq:2]In the case of the car, I suspect it's an ... doors and boot, petrol cap; ah, I remember it well..)[/nq]
[nq:1]I sincerely hope that it's not true that separate keys are an anachronism. When I buy my next new car, I will be disappointed if it's not provided with separate keys.[/nq]
Maybe it's different in the US I can't recall the last car I owned her with separate keys (probably an early 1980s' model). We currently have a 6-year-old Citroen and a 2-year-old Renault, and I recently drove a brand-new Vauxhall (Astra) as a loaner from the body shop; all of these used a single key.
(It's also the case that all of the central locking on these automatically open the boot as well as the doors; the central locking on the new Vauxhall even unlocked the petrol cap flap.)

I don't know if one can specify separate keys as an optional extra.

Cheers, Harvey
Ottawa/Toronto/Edmonton for 30 years;
Southern England for the past 21 years.
(for e-mail, change harvey to whhvs)
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James Follett:
X-No-Archive: yes
[nq:1]It seems to me that people use frequently the plural forms of the word "key" to talk about their keys. Apparently they do so even when there is only one key. Is this correct, and if so, why?[/nq]
When I turned 21 I wasn't given keys, I was given a key. Christ only knows what it was supposed to open other than trouble.
[nq:1]For instance, one might say, "I lost my house/car keys." Does this always mean they lost more than one key?[/nq]
Yes. The "s" on the end of the noun is a dead give away.
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